11 September, 2008

The 9/11 Post

The more I attempt to think about 9/11, the less I am convinced that things "changed forever" on that day for the country.

Certainly, those who lost someone on that day had their lives irrevocably affected, as have those who have lost someone because of the dubious wars that directly resulted from 9/11. I don't dispute that at all. What I do dispute is the assertion that "9/11 changed everything" or "united us all as Americans."

What I have noticed is that the people in power have made changes to things that now piss a lot of people off; those in power have, effectively, missed their chance to make changes in our society that will actually make things better for people. Eradicating sexism, racism, homophobia, poverty, and related evils are just not important; "stronger" security checkpoints at airports and color-coded alert charts (to let us know how freaked out we should be) are more important.

I have seen no such "unity" in America. If you do not support or contribute to the people in power in this country, they do not care about you. One example of this was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. Those who have the most power in this country do not care about helping anyone but their own. If you are female, if you are not white, if you are not 100% heterosexual, if your gender identity is outside of the two options prescribed by society, if you are poor, or ill, or disabled, or do not subscribe to the doctrines of uber-fundamentalist Christianity, if you are for reproductive choice, if you are fat, if you are a feminist/womanist, if you do not have health insurance or need health care that is not rudimentary, if you require federal assistance/welfare, if you do not support the theory of intelligent design, if you work for the public school system, if you are an immigrant, if English is not your first language, if you are a war veteran, if you are unemployed, if you are lower or middle-class, if you are an intellectual, if you are a scientist who does not bow to governmental or corporate pressures, if you are a person who is perceived as being "too entitled" or "too angry" for being a non-white/woman/homosexual/disabled/poor person--those in power right now do not have your best interests at heart. American "unity" is, at best, an aspiration; at worst, it is a complete lie. Supporting only the incredibly wealthy and the lucky is not unity: it is treasonous to the true spirit of this country.

The myth that we are a "post-race" or "post-gender" society has also grown since 9/11. The one problem with this myth is that it is simply untrue. Any member of a minority group who has come of age in American society knows this. Unfortunately, the "post" myth is spread far and wide by those in power and those who support them. Take, for example, Sarah Palin. She may be female, but she is not a feminist. She is acceptable as a female candidate for a powerful international position because she does not threaten the status quo: she is pretty, she is intensely right-wing, and she presents herself as "just a hockey mom." She fulfills several stereotypical white female roles: mother, accidental-public-figure-but-not-really and masturbation fodder. She is a shining paragon of unattainable femininity and female power, without any of that messy, entitled feminism stuff. She is radical in the sense that her policies are arch-conservative. She is a lion in a zebra suit.

The same lions in zebra suits are running the country now, and using 9/11 over and over again until we don't dare question that it was a day that "changed everything." Sadly, it feels like very little has changed. We are still as selfish and faux-innocent ("Why do they hate us?") as ever. We can go fight a war based on extremely dubious premises, but we cannot care for our own people in their times of need (see: economic recession, Hurricane Katrina). We can talk out of our asses about human rights in other countries, yet we can still torture people, or detain them, and it's okay because we are America. We can use 9/11 as a political and rhetorical tool, yet accuse our ideological opposites of doing the same crass thing.

Welcome to America: We almost learned a great big lesson, once. Unfortunately, it didn't ever stick.


vesta44 said...

Amen! And sadly, I don't see things changing for the better any time soon, especially if McNasty gets elected. It will be more of the same, if not worse (yeah, I'm a pessimist when it comes to politics).

Anonymous said...

Hey Bug: Powerfully and clearly stated. You give me hope. D.