A sullied date


This 9/11, not the first, is the one when I feel most hopeless about our nation. 

On that day a dozen years ago — after washing the debris of the day off me — I held hope that the tragedy would unite Americans to stand against tyranny and for democracy and freedom.

Today I see a nation that is not upholding the principles of freedom but is instead still using 9/11 as an excuse to threaten speech and assembly, to isolate ourselves from the world, and to build closed fortresses rather than the open square.

That’s not to say I didn’t find 9/11 leading me down wrong paths. I supported the Iraq war, not because Saddam Hussein had a thing to do with the attack on us, of course, but because I bought the rationale that we should stand up for his oppressed people and free them for democracy — and the promise that we could succeed. I was wrong.

But as we debate Syria now, I am troubled that we are not willing to place a red line at tyranny or to decide where that line is. I’m not saying we should attack Syria — I have learned that lesson. But I do wish we would first discuss what our obligation is to these people and then discuss means. Instead, I hear a debate only about degrees of isolation.

I am disgusted at every revelation from Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and the Guardian about the massive violation of essential rights committed by the NSA. I worry greatly about the chill this puts on speech, on assembly, and on the advancement of technology. I don’t blame the spies. Cats must kill, spies must spy. I blame our leaders for not doing their single most important job: protecting freedom.

This morning, I went back to the World Trade Center. I used to go there faithfully on this date. Today, I decided to visit at the last minute. Now that the 9/11 Memorial is complete, every activity of the day is being held there, closed behind wire and walls. I could barely hear the bagpipes in the air.

That the 9/11 Memorial and today’s remembrances are held in a fortress is emblematic of the wrong path we have taken these 12 years: not toward openness but toward isolation, not toward generosity but toward defense, not toward principles but toward expediency. We should be closer to freedom. We are farther away.

But I must search for hope in the day. I want to find hope in the bravery of a few whistleblowers and journalists who are fighting for our right to know what our government is doing to us and the world. I want to find hope in the fact that we are not blindly entering another war and are at least debating it first. I want to find hope in going to the World Trade Center and seeing the hole in our soul finally filled in. I want to.

  • guest

    You mean, Syria ? -_-

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  • Yes. This. Thank you, Jeff. I don’t know how long it will take for Americans to wake up, but we need messages like this to continue until everyone is awake.

  • Methusalada

    Hi Jeff, It’s a big step for most people to say I was wrong. it’s an enormous step to state in public my government is wrong. It makes one search inside oneself questioning one self & identity. Give me some time ! My PC goes away tomorrow for repair when I come back on line I shall have something purely British for you to consider for replacing your frustration & anger.

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  • msbpodcast

    “I want to find hope in going to the World Trade Center and seeing the hole in our soul finally filled in.”

    I lived in the Gateway complex right across the boulevard from tower 2…

    The hope you seek was stomped out and extinguished by John Pointdexter and his TIA.

    We’re co-existing (I dare not call it living,) with his vision of a world were every one and every thing at all time are monitored and the details can be recalled when its convenient to the NSA. (And their interpretations of facts are the only one considered.)

    Our mistake was thinking that we’d dealt with it…

    Well ITS BACK, and this time it knows that we don’t like it.

    It hid until it could survive without us, off the grid, inside black budget line items, protected by secrets courts, secret trials, secret police, totally integrated into ALL of our communication, capable of squeezing all the profits from insider trading, and capable of making ANYONE disappear so totally that we’ll never be able to prove they existed in the first place.

    We only succeeded in pushing under water, not in drowning it.

    Now we’re all well and truly screwed.

    The NSA has its own funds and sources of funds, some of which are [black], some of which may be of dubious legality, with a shadowy command structure, who’s decisions are secret, the enforcement is secret, the courts are secret, the jails are secret. Its facilities are hidden behind manicured lawns and security guards.

    I find it amusingly tragic.

    We have crafted a system that the East German Stazi would stand open-mouthed in awe of.

    And its too late. That genie is not going back in the bottle without a nasty fight.

    It will probably destroy the American Constitution until its only a red,white and blue rag, waving in the breeze from a flag pole, in the middle of a rubbish dump.