I donít have a lot to say about 9/11 that I havenít already said,
so Iíve 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
ďAmericanĒ esthetic, a rainbow coalition of cultural erasure
singing Lee Greenwoodís 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 celebrating
Multiculturalism has always been a kind of awkward visit to the in-laws: something you have to do, but letís 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 olí boys, 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 werenít starring in Jimmy Stewart films, Jimmy Stewart films were, for me, a window into another world, another America. Thatís the America that came together after the attacks: Ronald Reaganís America, Jimmy Stewartís 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 tuneóthe American tune, ďAmericanĒ 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 Katrinaís 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 ďHeckuva JobĒ 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 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, violate 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 nationís 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 donít 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.
On this national day of mourning, Iím quite sure we will see plenty of diversity on TV, but, at the end of the day, itís just another trip to the in-laws.
Christopher J. Priest
11 September 2011