Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, Ten Years Later

You should know that I wasn't going to write this post.  Believe it or not, I'd said pretty much everything that I'd meant to say in the post I wrote a year ago today.  There are already so many perspectives out there on the September 11 terrorist attacks, and many of them are far deeper and far more powerful than I suspect that this is going to be.  And yet, I find myself compelled to write something.

Maybe it's the weather.  Today looks surprisingly like September 11 did a decade ago; then, as today, the weather where I live was clear and beautiful, a little cool but not actually cold, as we usually get during this time of transition between summer and autumn.  I didn't tend to pay much attention to the news in the morning in those days; I seldom had time to do more than wake up, get dressed, make sure I'd done my homework, grab an orange or a pomegranate from the fruit bowl, and zip out the door, since the university was a half-hour's drive away from home and we usually stopped at a Tim Horton's somewhere to pick up coffee, since someone had misplaced the power cord for our coffee pot.  That day was no different.  Until I got to school that morning and saw so many people packed into the student lounge and paying so much attention to the TVs, I had no idea that anything unusual was happening.

Or perhaps "unusual" isn't the right word...

I was eighteen years old when the attacks took place; my nineteenth birthday was still just a bit under two months away.  As such, I only knew the pre-9/11 world as a child and a teenager; the entirety of my adulthood, such as it is, has been spent in a post-9/11 world.  But I remember all too well the new kind of fear that I'd never seen any of the adults in my life (and there were lots of them) exhibit before, and I'd been following politics for several years by that point anyway, and I knew that the fallout of the September 11 terrorist attacks would inevitably lead to military retaliation and legislation that would take away the very freedom(s) that politicians would claim that it was supposed to protect; governments have tended to be very predictable in these matters.  And we saw it happen, from the war in Iraq (I still think it's utterly fascinating how "Get Osama!" turned into "Get Saddam!" so quickly) to the laughably-named PATRIOT Act in the USA to armed guards at the border to not being able to carry more than 100 ml of water with you on a plane to body-scan machines that can cause cancer but that even in Canada we're supposed to believe are a harmless and effective method of detecting weapons.  Paranoia is still high and we're still paying the price, even with Osama bin Laden now known to be dead.

I can't help but think even now, months after the military operation in which he died, that when he was killed, those who still supported him now have another reason to hate the Western Hemisphere; he's just as dangerous dead as he was alive.  His supporters have been given a martyr.

Even in Canada, you know, we still get a lot of "9/11!  9/11! 9/11!  Freedom isn't free!  Support the troops!  Support the war!  If you've got nothing to hide, you've got no need for privacy!  GIVE UP YOUR FREEDOM AND PRIVACY SO THE TERRORISTS WON'T WIN!!!" rhetoric.  I've never approved of it.  It's almost like we're still trying to discredit the already thoroughly-discredited rumour (and extremely ridiculous concept) that Canada let the terrorists into the USA.  (Among other things, even if they had come from here, it would have been the American border guards who let them into the country.)  It's always seemed to me that whatever goals the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks had in mind, they had to have known, at least, that governments around the world would react as they ultimately did, by feeling and embracing fear and using it for their own ends.  So we've seen essential freedoms and liberties eroded, more racism and racial profiling, encouragement of fear, and even Canada's been locked into at least one war that we had nothing to do with starting.  (And by the by, even though we haven't officially been involved in the Iraq war, I hear that we've sent some troops and resources there nonetheless, though we're mostly just still tied up in that mess in Afghanistan.)  And because of this fear, and all of these resources that could have been put to better use than being dedicated to killing brown people in the Middle East, and all of these policies and people treating all travellers as if they're criminals for simply wanting to visit another country (I remember border security and airline security before 2001, and while they could sometimes be invasive, I never got the feeling of hostility that I get whenever I travel to other countries now), I can't help but think that this "war on terrorism" has actually been a victory for those terrorists.  As Dana Scully said in the first X-Files movie, "the rational object of terrorism is to promote terror."  And that's exactly what happened.  The terrorists inspired terror, and politicians kept it going.

We live in a terrified world.  We've gotten used to it over the past decade, but it's no less true now than it was on that terrible day with the beautiful weather.  And now, ten years later, when we remember the violence of the day, I hope that there will be no (or at least very little) glamourisation of the day and of its fallout, including this "war on terror" that has no possible end and very little at all to recommend it.

As a personal observance, I've scheduled this post to appear at 9:30 AM, which is roughly the time when I walked into the student lounge and realized that the world was about to change in a terrible, dramatic way.  Delaying this post for a mere half hour seems a little strange, but at this time ten years ago I didn't know that anything was happening.  It seems right, if only for the same sort of reasoning that goes along with celebrating Remembrance Day at 11:00 AM.

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