What Have We Won?
America has never looked the part of her promise, the closest we come are these awkward photo ops. The nation standing together on 9/11 meant, to a real extent, embracing the “American” esthetic, a rainbow coalition of cultural erasure. As America reasserted its nationalism, we all fell in line, setting aside our individualism and diversity while paradoxically celebrating both. Additionally, the groundswell of American pride and unity in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 has been exploited and ultimately perverted into an evil much greater than the attack itself: the destruction of the U.S. Constitution in the name of defending it.
Indivisible Under God
I don’t have a lot to say about 9/11 that I haven’t already
said, so I’ve
reposted my original thoughts on the matter,
written a few months after the attacks. As the tenth anniversary
observations play out this weekend, my thoughts are that America
has never looked the part of her promise, the closest we come
are these awkward photo ops. The nation standing together on
9/11 meant, to a real extent, embracing the “American” esthetic,
a rainbow coalition of cultural erasure singing Lee Greenwood’s
Proud To Be An American, a CD I doubt many non-whites own. As
America reasserted its nationalism, we all fell in line, setting
aside our individualism and diversity while paradoxically
Multiculturalism has always been a kind of awkward visit to the in-laws: something you have to do, but let’s get back on the road as soon as possible. Multicultural churches, to my experience, have typically been white churches with black faces or black churches singing white music in a misguided effort to broaden their congregation. We are a society of many tribes.
9/11 coalesced the nation, but coalesced it around distinctly white, middle American values and did so in an extremely megalomaniacal way. Good ol’ boys with huge garrison flags, anchored to gun racks in their Ford trucks, snapping in the breeze. God Bless America and all of that national pride. For me, and for many of my friends, most of that was a spectator sport. Heartwarming, like a Jimmy Stewart movie, but Blacks weren’t starring in Jimmy Stewart films, Jimmy Stewart films were, for me, a window into another world, another America. That’s the America that came together after the attacks: Ronald Reagan’s America, Jimmy Stewart’s America. A place that welcomed blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians only conditionally into the periphery of their great parade. All that Bob Seger music, Like A Rock. Never heard that playing growing up in my neighborhood.
America came together but merely papered over deep divisions among us. The love-in welcomed us so long as we sang along in harmony to their tune—the American tune, “American” as defined by huge corporate interests which made out like bandits in the post-9/11 hysteria. The hopeful (and insidiously manufactured) good will and jingoism in the country was shattered years later in the days following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the city of New Orleans. Beginning with the indifference demonstrated by the vacationing president and continuing with the staggeringly inept emergency response led by “Heckuva Job” Brownie, this unified, flag-waving, Arab-hating, America-love-it-or-leave-it crowd sat on their sofas and watched the desperate poor of New Orleans suffer in unimaginable, unacceptable ways, fracturing the manufactured post-9/11 unity.
With the rise of Obama, racism has made a huge comeback. This has largely been sponsored by the conservative fringe, but the mainstream Republican party has been the bridesmaid of the deliberate, calculated use of racism as a political tool. Ten years after 9/11, the country is an absolute mess politically, economically and socially. Far from being united, America is deeply and bitterly divided due in large measure to conservative political tactics. The ideal of being free in America has been disturbingly undermined by our hard, paranoid swing to the right.
Stop Politicizing Tragedy:: Mourners at ground Zero.
The Expense of Freedom
The groundswell of American pride and unity in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 has been exploited and ultimately perverted into an evil much greater than the attack itself: the destruction of the U.S. Constitution in the name of defending it. Violations of our most basic constitutional rights, begun under the Bush administration and continued under President Obama, undermine the very freedom so many of our fellow Americans died to protect. The acts of madmen are part of the price of living in a free and open society, but we have become a people unwilling to sacrifice, seeking instead a guarantee of absolute safety no government can credibly offer and willing to sacrifice the nation’s core values in exchange for those empty promises. We want to be a free and open society but are unwilling to pay the price of that freedom: the possibility of people we don’t like doing or saying things we disagree with. America seems a nation of woefully undereducated people who simply do not understand or refuse to accept the fact that freedom is not free.