9/11 by Chris Bilalon September 16, 2011 at 3:11 am
Countless lives and financial symbols weren’t the only casualties of September 11th. We lost the civil rights and freedoms that made us Americans. It wasn’t knife wielding terrorists or the doctrines of Bin laden that seized this from us, but our very own elected officials donning ironic flag lapels pins. Before the dust and death even settled, the unpatriotic Patriot Act was passed effectively rolling back decades of civil protections as Americans looked the other way.
This ushered in a new era of fear and with it, a general acceptance that in the face of invisible enemies, everything that civilians do should be public. Meanwhile the lives, whereabouts and motivations of both terrorists and politicians remains a secret, as Google, Facebook, Twitter, government and public safety agencies fight about which one of them owns our information. Since September 11th, privacy, accountability and trust in government has decreased while our fears, opposition, arrest rates, debts and the value of our private information has skyrocketed- all under the pretense of national security. The temporary front of national unity eventually buckled under the pressure of vast wealth and punishment disparities, endless war, and the continued sacrifice of the poor for the rich whether it be in military deployments or tax cuts for the rich.
Many people won after September 11th- terrorists, the airline industry, comedy shows, the military complex, private prison industry, funeral homes, defense spenders, shouting pundits, fear mongers, insurance companies, war hawks, Fox News, police department budgets and immigration agencies to name a few. But our hardworking Americans lost. Wall Street may have been the hijacker’s target but they’ve done pretty well for themselves since that day.
The innocent office workers and firefighters who perished that day are the face of loss but the losses continue. There is the plight of patriotic soldiers who thought they could find America’s enemies or away out of the ghetto by enlisting in the army; only to return home with missing limbs, post traumatic stress and inadequate health care.
There is the struggling brown skinned cab driver, from Queens who risks being called a terrorist if he doesn’t take the quickest route to Brooklyn. We forgot about the selfless World Trade Center first responders who are still pleading with New York and Congress to pay for the ballooning health care costs they accumulate for rushing to save thousands of people while breathing in toxic chemicals from collapsed ceilings and computers. The hardworking immigrant still waiting on his social security card because of increased scrutiny, or the young black kid who walks to the next train station every day because there are bored cops at the station closest to his house; all live in agony as a result of rushed legislation passed in the name of patriotism.
Our youth are the most vulnerable victims of 9/11, their future shortchanged to fund all the Orwellian anti-terrorism initiatives of the day at the expense of well-trained teachers or much needed technology upgrades. Their short memory of life before 9/11, where they didn’t have to discard shampoo before a flight, is just a footnote in their new lives under surveillance and economic uncertainty. Overtime, the idea of rational thought, the fruits of diplomacy and getting to the root of issues has been replaced with a culture of reactionary response. The new emphasis is on living in the instant without respect for the consequences. That attitude, born from the ashes of Ground Zero, has gradually seeped into our culture and can be seen in our willingness to militarize our police departments or in the NYPD’s policy of handcuff first and ask questions later. We overreact to any minute threat of terror but ignore the terror caused by chronic unemployment, police harassment, and huge cuts in education and social programs.
When we don’t find and effectively address the root of a problem and acknowledge our own contributory faults, we exacerbate the situation to the point of failure. But then again, recognizing our own failure is perceived as un-American so we live and police beyond our means. A decade later, America’s image and international relationships are as fragile as ever. We still live in a permanent state of terror constructed by conservative ideologues, hasty post 9/11 legislation and fanatics in every religion who exploit faith and fear. Its painfully obvious that foreign and domestic policy crafted to protect America in the aftermath of the dust cloud has left America feeling for our way out of the dark.
And while I find it hard to forgive the terrorists for the chain reaction and the downward slide they caused; each anniversary, every tear filled memorial, I will never forget how our politicians and our powerful continually use the deep wounds of those attacks to attack our economy, our education, our privacy, our civil rights and our America.