My friends on facebook have posted eloquent and heart-felt grief, and I agree we have a deep sorrow that unites us, in memory. I don't have much to add to the experience of that day; I watched the towers fall on television, while I was safe in my livingroom. I didn't know anyone who died, although I remember reading tributes in the New York Times and being very moved.
But I think we missed a tremendous opportunity to be a better nation. In part, we were most unfortunate to have George Bush as president exactly then. Not only did he lead us away from any meaningful introspection, but he marched us into two wars in which hand-picked corporations profited handsomely, and in which exponentially more people died than in the towers, causing millions more to hate us even more intensely.
Since 9/11, we have spent a trillion dollars on national security, just at home. And this is the unhinged response I saw on a local level, after the attacks. My daughter's high school classmate was not allowed to go Trick-or-Treating with his friends in their small and tightly knit community. This was a big deal - they planned their costumes - often representing the entire cast of books or movies - the whole year. The mother would not yield - she was afraid of terrorists.
Meanwhile, with our attention firmly focused on... what? We failed to discuss or solve the real problems of our day. We lost 3,000 people in NYC on 9/11 (which we now know could have been stopped with better communication between law enforcement agencies using existing laws), but we lose 40,000 people a year from a lack of access to good medical care, 30,000 a year to gun deaths, 100,000 people a year to infections in hospitals. Loosening regulations and unfunding regulating agencies means we have allowed the finance industry to bring the world economy to its knees, BP and other drilling companies to fill the Gulf with toxins, giant agribusiness to spew more poisons into our land, air, water and food. We're like cave dwellers who don't comprehend anything we can't see inside our cave - where else are people proud of not believing in climate change? and that lets us, with 5% of the population, use 25% of the world's fossil fuels with, apparently, a clear conscience. We've let corporations and government bodies bust unions and drive wages down so that people are even less able to cope with medical and environmental disasters.
I don't think we're safer by any measure. We're more xenophobic, uninformed and vengeful than we were ten years ago, and do I get this right - this is part of our swagger?
I love this country, and if we lived by our own ideals it would be so great. I want us to take the high ground, like Norway did, when the prime minister said about the grisly anti-Muslim attacks: this will make us even more determined to be multi-cultural and open.
We have our own American terrorists. They are white, black and brown, child and man. They are Christian, atheist, Muslim. They often have untreated mental illness and are armed to the teeth. Let's learn what we can from each attack, but let's remember what my hero George Mitchell said when he was helping to broker a peace in Northern Ireland: not all violence can be prevented, but let's not use that to prevent us from moving toward peace.
Let's begin by not worshiping violence. Let's spend the next ten years talking about what kind of country we want to live in. Stop the unconstitutional wiretapping, extraordinary renditions, secret prisons. Let me wear my shoes in the airport. I'll take my chances. Use that money to send young people to school to be doctors, journalists, engineers, librarians, wind power technicians, medical researchers, translators, writers. Let's stop thinking of the military as a way to express ultimate patriotism. Isn't it more patriotic not wanting to kill or die for one's country? Let's use that money to build public transportation; to help small farmers grow local, organic food; to change our energy grid so each building can be a power generator; to put books into the hands of children.
Let's shut down our military bases all around the world, or turn them into health clinics or education or sustainable energy outreach bases. Let's build up. Let's stop acting like terrorists, ourselves.