September 11, 2002

Today, One Year Later

Today is the one-year anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. Perhaps you heard something about it.

Everyone has a story of his or her own about that day. Mine involves sleeping late that morning, so it probably wouldn’t make good column fodder. Instead, since I feel the media has so frustratingly failed to do so, I want to examine the actions taken by our leaders and how this attack has affected our quality of life in the past year.

The events of Sept. 11 brought out the good, the bad and the ugly inherent in the world. The initial outpouring of grief and sympathy has, for some, been replaced by suspicion and “justification” of personal prejudices.

For this reason, a disturbingly high number of the populace is more than willing to give up the liberties that America stands in order to preserve American liberties. And they say irony is dead!

All I know is, people like Osama and John Ashcroft make this epic battle look like pro wrestling; which bad guy should I root for in this contrived storyline?

I feel shameful for saying that about my country, but in a lot of ways this attack has allowed our officials to turn the United States into a conformist metal detector. Turning the American flag into an omnipresent symbol of obedience has not helped to alleviate this perception. Merely waving a flag will not make you a patriot, and neither will affixing 20 flag stickers to your truck (like the one I recently saw in traffic).

Patriotism comes from a genuine and consistent passion for the principles that founded this country and undying adherence to those freedoms. Purchasing a flag or an SUV on September 12 did not count, in spite of what anyone may have told you.

For many, one essence of patriotism is enjoying the Super Bowl, where one of the few American-bred sports comes together with capitalism at its most flamboyant. This year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials showcased a very stern announcement, courtesy of the War on Terror; remember friends, when you buy drugs, you SUPPORT THE TERRORISTS! Spend your money on non-terrorist-abetting products such as gasoline instead.

As for the government’s handling of the crisis, I give them in A+—in failing spectacularly. This assault was the perfect opportunity to show the world how justice is done right—the American way!

Instead, our esteemed leaders went the medieval route, with daily doses of Constitution shredding. Evidently, the current strategy is to out-terrorize the terrorists, even if the alleged “terrorists” are American citizens whose only contact with a bomb was seeing the movie “Battlefield Earth.”

In this bizarre pinball game of a year, the U.S. government has careened out of control with power, with only the flippers of a concerned American public keeping them on the playing field. But like any pinball machine, the field is slanted, and the ball slips through the flippers once in a while. In other words, the government, much like a pinball, does what it wants if we let it. Tilt!

The positive stories of this past year, and there are multitudes of them, lie in the regular people of America: the firefighters, the police officers, the working class and everyone else involved in the collective caring of a nation. These selfless patriots became unified not through some abstract concept of “fighting terror” or revenge, but through bringing hope and comfort to the afflicted.

When people anywhere make references to the undying spirit of America, these are the people to whom they are referring. They deserve our eternal gratitude.

So where will we be as a nation one year from today? Hopefully the American people will continue to have their hearts in the right place and government belligerence won’t force us into yet another “where were you when you heard…” incident. Let’s hope we never have to remember where we were ever again.

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