Happy Sept. 12. If you’re reading this, it means we made it. We’re all still here. Nothing happened yesterday. The “Orange Terror Alert” kept me from going to class, but no planes fell from the sky, no jihadeering Arabs martyred themselves in a fiery reprise of … well, I don’t have to say it. You know what I’m talking about.
Relieved as I am to have avoided immolation one more day, I can’t help but think back to last Sept. 12. It was early in the morning, and I couldn’t sleep very well. I had driven by the rock earlier the previous day; within hours of the attacks someone painted the words “Kill Osama bin Laden” on the landmark. I decided my sleepless night might be best spent covering it with a more moderate message. I was heartened to see when I got there that someone had already beaten me to it and a giant peace sign covered the hateful epithet.
I woke up later that morning wondering if the events of the previous day had really taken place. I woke up knowing things had irrevocably changed. Some swore war and swift retribution; others promised the events would bring a greater understanding, a national realization of America’s hegemony and what that brings. A turning of the corner for American foreign policy and a new awareness that what happened was not a freak accident but precipitated by the growing divide between cultures and the first and third worlds.
I woke up this morning with a much different realization than a year ago: Things are more the same than ever. We have learned nothing in a year save to bury our heads deeper in the sand. Our resilience in recovering from what happened can be measured in our increased ability to ignore; our decreased ability to question.
But what could we question at such a time of national unity, a time when more people then ever stand up to put their hands over their hearts when some B-list celebrity belts out the national anthem prior to a baseball game?
Question why the nearly 4,000 Afghan civilians (the conservative estimate) killed in Operation Enduring Freedom are rarely, if ever, mentioned by the American media. There were more stories about the battered animals in the Kabul Zoo. (Can you liberate something that is supposed to be caged?)
Question why Europe (and the rest of the world) harbors greater resentment toward the U.S. a year after the attacks than it did before them. Question why many countries in the international system are more afraid of the U.S. than they are of Iraq.
Question why only a fraction of the people who showed up on the Diag for last night’s candlelight vigil would show up for an anti-war protest if the U.S. attacks Iraq.
Question why a secret service agent investigating a Muslim man suspected of carrying fake checks at Detroit Metro Airport wrote anti-Muslim slurs on a prayer calendar found at the man’s house and received only a six-month suspension. Question why these are the people we’re trusting to carry out our domestic “war on terror.”
Question why the mainstream American media resoundingly and unquestioningly accepted the Bush administration’s tag of “War on Terror” and then composed theme music to accompany the words onscreen.
Question why John Ashcroft pushed to suspend a number of civil liberties. Question why it takes a court ruling against the federal government to ensure deportation hearings for Ann Arbor resident Rabih Haddad are open proceedings. Question why there are others like Haddad, who has been held at undisclosed locations since December for allegedly residing in the United States on an expired visa. Question why news organizations have been forced to sue the federal government.
Question why despite billing himself during his campaign as the only candidate with business experience, Bush’s administration has presided over one of the darkest times in the history of the American market. Question why the president’s answer to those problems are stiffer penalties for laws that aren’t enforced.
Question why so many people and corporations (from T-shirt vendors in New York to Kmart Corp.) have appropriated what happened a year ago yesterday and used it to their own ends.
Question yourself if any of this is new information. Question me for writing it.
Happy Sept. 12.
David Enders can be reached at email@example.com.