Every anniversary I read Susan Sontag's brave piece from The New Yorker, which was published on September 24th, 2001. You can read other writers' and thinkers' reactions from that day here. Sontag received (of course) a great deal of criticism for her agressive stance, but I find her points to still ring true after SEVEN years . . . which unfortunately says more about the ignorant, impotent administration than the American people (I hope). So, once again, Susan.
"The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.
Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.
Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all America has to be."
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God knows how many people never came home on September 11th, 2001.
Dr. Sneha Anne Philip's case has been perhaps the most publicized and the most mysterious. But I can't help but think what else is missing from this country: an awareness that the right-wing, isolationist stance that George W. Bush and his ilk take is flat out wrong, racist, ignorant, and the only thing it does is gets us (not to mention other people) killed. I still can't fathom how we were struck dumb enough to elect this man for a second time. Anger, Revenge and Blood-lust are inevitably part of being human. But I believe that our leaders should, with the help of a well-informed administration, be able to rise above our initial impulse to seek and destroy.
And while many Americans feel down-trodden, disgusted, and helpless when it comes to our election process, I must urge everyone to vote for the missing. For those people who never came home on 9/11, and for the compassion, intellect, and capable leadership that has been missing from this country for nearly eight years.
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To my friends and family, I love you. Take care of yourselves and others.
And to New York, no matter how much you test me, you are still the most vibrant, resilient city: let's hope the rest of the country catches on.