Tag: 9/11

Do The Orwellian Police State Cha-Cha!!

Last week, like the careful student of political science I am, I was reading the full text of the Pledge to America, the new policy platform for the GOP’s Fall Election campaign…
The thing that disturbed me the most is that the text so emphasizes the Constitution and a return to the Constitution, all this restoration language,

House Republican Leader John Boehner and posse, behind a podium with a shiny "Pledge to America" sign, introduce their new Pledge to America (photo credit: Drew Angerer/The New York Times)

but despite unprecedented law enforcement overreach in recent years, COMPLETELY IGNORES civil liberties (Bill of Rights, Amendments 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc)!! The text explicitly mentions the Tenth Amendment, and of course they’re all about THE RIGHT TO OWN A GUN (even automatics, heavy weapons, bazookas, RPGs, etc) but evidently the rest of the Bill of Rights simply doesn’t exist!

Does no Republican behind this pledge think of civil liberties as part of the Constitution?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (in California) just ruled that police placing tracking devices on cars in private driveways is totally legal because “there’s no expectation of privacy in driveways.” Unless you’re rich and can lock your vehicle in a garage or behind a fence with private security guards, that is.

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant.

It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich.

This case began in 2007, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents decided to monitor Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle’s underside.

After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA’s actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January that it was all perfectly legal. More disturbingly, a larger group of judges on the circuit, who were subsequently asked to reconsider the ruling, decided this month to let it stand. (Pineda-Moreno has pleaded guilty conditionally to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and manufacturing marijuana while appealing the denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained with the help of GPS.)

Excerpted from: The Government’s New Right To Track Your Every Move With GPS – TIME

Neither Team Donkey nor Team Elephant have expressed the slightest concern. Not a word.

This editorial cartoon by Adam Zyglis depicts President Obama as Uncle Sam in one of those WWII-era Army recruitment posters, but with the banner "I HEAR YOU," and the words "Expanded Surveillance" printed on his big ears.

Not a word either concerning the new FBI/Obama Administration proposal to make every data method tappable and un-encryptable!!!

To counter such problems, officials are coalescing around several of the proposal’s likely requirements:

  • Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
  • Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
  • Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.

“It would be an enormous change for newly covered companies,” he said. “Implementation would be a huge technology and security headache, and the investigative burden and costs will shift to providers.”

Several privacy and technology advocates argued that requiring interception capabilities would create holes that would inevitably be exploited by hackers.

Steven M. Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor, pointed to an episode in Greece: In 2005, it was discovered that hackers had taken advantage of a legally mandated wiretap function to spy on top officials’ phones, including the prime minister’s.

“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”

Susan Landau, a Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study fellow and former Sun Microsystems engineer, argued that the proposal would raise costly impediments to innovation by small startups.

“Every engineer who is developing the wiretap system is an engineer who is not building in greater security, more features, or getting the product out faster,” she said.

Moreover, providers of services featuring user-to-user encryption are likely to object to watering it down. Similarly, in the late 1990s, encryption makers fought off a proposal to require them to include a back door enabling wiretapping, arguing it would cripple their products in the global market.

But law enforcement officials rejected such arguments. They said including an interception capability from the start was less likely to inadvertently create security holes than retrofitting it after receiving a wiretap order.

They also noted that critics predicted that the 1994 law would impede cellphone innovation, but that technology continued to improve. And their envisioned decryption mandate is modest, they contended, because service providers — not the government — would hold the key.

“No one should be promising their customers that they will thumb their nose at a U.S. court order,” Ms. Caproni said. “They can promise strong encryption. They just need to figure out how they can provide us plain text.”

Excerpted from: U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet – NYTimes.com

In a normative political system, we would have an opposition party to oppose these kinds of outrageous excesses; part of any political system is supposed to be the people raising cain when there are rights violations, but neither party gives us an outlet for that. Right now, the Republican party is supposed to be the opposition party; that’s why I brought up the “Pledge to America.” But they don’t oppose unlimited surveillance and limited civil liberties, in fact, they’re like “bahbah-bahbahBAAHH, I’m lovin’ it!!” Even though they’re calling for a return to the Constitution, they’re acting like the Bill of Rights doesn’t include civil liberties of any sort (other than gun rights).

In the Republican party’s defense, we expect Republicans to be the authoritarian police state party, they are supposed to have that Big Brother ideology. And, in opposition, the Democratic party is supposed to be chock-full of “card-carrying members of the ACLU” who stand up for civil liberties and defend all forms of art (even pornography) and freedom of speech and privacy in the Bill of Rights, etc. The problem is how the Democrats have completely caved and sold out on their traditional positions. Why? Just so they’re not labeled “unserious” and barred from the good parties in a post-9/11 neoliberal authoritarian climate? How did we, the American people, divinely-appointed guardians of human freedom around the world, allow it to go so far?

Right now, there is NO opposition party against America sliding into an Orwellian police state. If we’re to keep the U.S. a Republic in any sense, that has to change!

An image with Benjamin Franklin and his famous quote "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."


Religious Literacy and Understanding, For Our Own Sake

You can’t really form productive relationships with many every day folk in the U.S. (nor Mexico, South America and Africa) if you’re completely ignorant of Christianity, and, increasingly, its more charismatic groups, which are seeing explosive growth. Unless you can *get* where people are “coming from,” you won’t understand them, and the spiritual is a huge part of that. The spiritual will always become more a focus when material things fail, and they are failing on a massive scale unseen since the ’30s.

As the U.S. falls, others prosper. You can’t understand what is going on in China right now (their return to their once-familiar role as #1 global superpower) if you have no clue what Confucianism is, and the role it is playing in Chinese policy and politics.

You can’t understand how cultures across the globe are responding to the rapid changes happening, a revolution in technology and society and the economy unprecedented since the Industrial Revolution, without religious literacy.

The Islamic world and the dizzying variety of cultures within it (peoples from North Africa to the Arabian peninsula to the Indian subcontinent to China and Indonesia, each very different from the rest) are in transition too, and you can’t hope to understand what is emerging without educating yourself about Islam, its beauty and its diversity and its role in people’s lives.

a rudimentary map of the countries with significant Muslim populations
a rudimentary map of the countries with significant Muslim populations. This is what I mean by "the Islamic world."
photo by Saif Dahlah/AFP via Getty Images
PHOTO CREDIT: Saif Dahlah/AFP via Getty Images. Click the picture to go to the source, the NYT Lens blog's Pictures of the Day, August 20, 2010

Can anyone look at this photo of this Muslim girl praying to the ONE GOD, and not grasp in some way how beautiful Islam can be? There is no reason to think this girl is part of radicalism or terrorism. Only those who have closed their minds, part of the “Angry White Male” anti-tolerance, fearful, anti-intellectual fervor that’s re-emerging in force in America, would post negative comments about this beautiful photo. During times of economic anxiety, rejection of the foreign and retreat to the familiar is easy, and it spreads.

When I see deep religious ignorance, like foaming opposition to an Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan because so many people can’t distinguish between the peaceful Sufis behind the Park51 project and the radical Wahabbis who support terrorism, I know we need to refocus on religious literacy and understanding.
We’ve got right-wing protesters waving signs based on fear and ignorance about Islam and rich liberals who are just as clueless about Islam as they are about Christianity; the woman that cleans their house more likely to know what Pentecostalism is than her “educated” bosses. And then there are countless hipsters and hippies with their “all religions are the same, different paths up the same mountain” crap, which ignores very meaningful differences and conflicts, and makes real religious literacy harder. All this should change.

Learn! Sufis are known for the whirling dervishes, not terror. To my knowledge, there’s never been a Sufi terrorist! It’s the splinter groups, usually radical elements of the Wahhabbi sect that want war with the West.

Wahhabism is the ultra-conservative revivalist brand of Islam that sprung up in the 18th century, rejecting traditional Sunni scholars and interpretation in favor of a new, extreme, purist form of Sunni Islam. Wahhabism brings us radical interpretations of Jihad, a focus on destruction of infidels, everybody but them seen as infidels, etc., ideas which were not widespread within Islam prior to Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab starting the Wahabbi movement, which has provided the foundation for radicalism (though it’s important to note that radical interpretations can be–and are–challenged on a textual basis, even within the movement). The radical splinter side of Wahhabism is the ideology of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hamas. Regular Wahabbism is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia (in fact, Wahabbism is inseparable from Saudi history, from the first Saudi state (which came into being because of an alliance with al-Wahhab) onward… Note: today, most in this movement prefer the term Salafi/Salafism. The spread of radical Wahabbism hijacking Islam, a great and beautiful Abrahamic faith (some parts of the Koran are downright pacifist!), and how oil wealth has funded radical madrassahs that have caused problems from Yemen to Afghanistan to the Indian subcontinent, is a really serious problem and should not be minimized.

But, my point is, media so often paints ALL Islam as crazed Wahhabi radicals likes al-Qaida, when, in reality, Islam reflects the incredible diversity of 1.5 BILLION people (read here about the many divisions in Islam). Americans can understand the nuanced and many differences within Christianity: Protestants and Catholics, Mormons and Baptists and Episcopalians, but most of us don’t understand the difference between Sunni Wahabbis and Sufis, or between Sunni Wahabbis and Shias.
Historians can easily argue that Wahhabism formed as a simpler, puritan alternative to the heavily mystical Sufism. Wahabbism is a fundamentalist response, like the “Restorationists” that sprung up from the “Second Great Awakening” in U.S. Christianity. Wahabbism is certainly (in style and content) in stark contrast to Sufism. A Wahabbi would look at the Sufi tradition of whirling dervishes and see pointlessness at best and heretical “innovation” at worst, because whirling like that isn’t in the Koran. Wahhabism rejects traditional scholars and leaders and hierarchy (akin to “the priesthood of all believers” in Protestant thought) because that may lead to “innovations” incongruous with their ultra-purist beliefs.
In diametric opposition, Shia Islam tends to emphasize scholarship, a hierarchy of Mullahs with a Grand Ayatollah (roughly analogous to the Pope) at the top, veneration of Saints, going to shrines, etc. Shia Islam is so different than Sunni, like Puritans vs. Catholics, it’s easy to understand why they’ve been in conflict for so many centuries. And Sufi mysticism is so different, you can see why Sufis are a persecuted minority in both the Sunni and Shia worlds (here is a spot-on op-ed about the precarious position of Sufis in today’s world: Muslims in the Middle). Islam isn’t a united force, and never was; it’s at war with itself in countless ways.
The diversity in Islam is real, and meaningful to understand anything going on in the world right now. But so often, media portrays Islam as one MONOLITHIC enemy. This is false, and pushes us to support stupid and disastrous decisions (like bombing and invading majority-Shia Iraq because we’re mad at al-Qaida, a Wahabbi Sunni splinter group).

Most worrying: the attitude I’m constantly hearing is ETERNAL WAR with all Islam, even super-peaceful Sufis. Too many blame ALL Islam for 9/11, somehow even Sufis are seen as connected to 9/11 even if they have been against Wahabbi interpretations of Islam since before America was founded; they can never escape! It really scares me when demagogues paint all 1.5 BILLION Muslims as enemies. Not only is that unjustified morally, it means more wars, it means we can forget our counterinsurgency strategy (which hinges on convincing Muslims we have no beef with their religion and winning hearts and minds), it means more hate; we’ll need to bring back the draft if we want war with over a billion people!

An economic and technological revolution is happening. The globalization train has left the station. Our success (hell, because of all our countless mistakes, OUR VERY SURVIVAL) as an independent nation-state will hinge on nation-building at home, which requires 1) unprecedented investment in infrastructure, education and R&D which requires 2) the absence of budget-crippling overseas conflicts which requires religious literacy and understanding and 3) welcoming the best and the brightest immigrants to our shores which requires religious literacy and understanding and 4) groundbreaking levels of diplomatic and economic cooperation with foreign powers, which requires religious literacy and understanding! 1-4 will determine whether America sinks or swims and each of these need a lack of cultural/religious animosity that keeps us divided and off-task, which, once again, requires religious literacy and understanding.

We have to have religious literacy and understanding to help us with the heavy lift ahead of us to rebuild our country. Religious literacy and understanding, FOR OUR OWN SAKE.

Every high school and college should be make mandatory reading Stephen Prothero‘s Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t and
God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter
for a basic overview of the religions shaping our world. Or at least read some of the links in this post.

But, America needs more (much more) religious literacy and understanding. For our own sake.

Video Blog: Islamic Center on Park Place: Guy in Neighborhood Responds

I’m that guy in the neighborhood. Believe it or not, we live in an apartment only 6-8 blocks or so north of the disputed Park51 site, so this is about MY NEIGHBORHOOD and I feel I’m a direct stakeholder in this controversy, so I should weigh in.

Knowledge of the neighborhood, and of the culture and dynamics of New York City itself, is badly missing from this “debate.” Most of the opposition never frequents these parts of Lower Manhattan; they come from other places, often hundreds of miles away or farther, to protest.

I know that New Yorkers do view the 16 acre (65,000 m2) superblock where the World Trade Center buildings stood as hallowed ground. New Yorkers have been very offended by the petty squabbles between The Port Authority, WTC lease-holder Larry Silverstein and various insurers that delayed any work on rebuilding until April 27, 2006. The planned permanent memorial and visitor center isn’t completed despite promises it would be. The September 11 Families’ Association has often decried the crass commercial activity surrounding the site, with illegal vendors yelling to sell tourists tacky Chinese-made 9/11 memorabilia like Twin Towers snowglobes and bad commemorative booklets with inaccurate Engrish text and pirated photographs, for absurdly high prices. See Hawking History and Cutting Corners for details about the situation.
The fact that the site has shameless vendors hawking tasteless souvenirs but not the promised memorial is a festering wound for a lot of New Yorkers. THAT offends us living in Lower Manhattan, not an Islamic YMCA that might be built two full blocks north (conservatives respond: you’re not offended by this in your neighborhood! we’ll be offended x1000 FOR YOU!)
Insensitive out-of-towners asking everybody on the bus “how do I get to Ground Zero?!” like it’s just another tourist attraction and go to buy those tacky knickknacks is pretty offensive though, and many of us connect those clueless tourists with the clueless out-of-towners (who often take after the willful ignorance satirized here in The Onion) pouring into the city to protest in a neighborhood they’ve never frequented and don’t remotely understand. A recent Marist poll confirms what I’m saying, only 31% of Manhattan residents say the Cordoba House offends them, whereas opposition goes up the further away from the area they poll (53% against if you count all five boroughs, 68% if you ask people in all 50 states). Misunderstanding the situation and hating this is “roughly proportional to distance” from it (from a great Hendrik Hertzberg op-ed).

Yes, the actual World Trade Center site (can we stop calling it Ground Zero, a misused term from douchebag news anchors, please???) is hallowed ground, but the surrounding area? Those surrounding blocks are no different than the rest of this Lower Manhattan neighborhood. It’s a place constantly changing, lots of run down buildings waiting for redevelopment beside gleaming corporate towers, Wall Street titans, tons of office space, churches, mosques, old stores, tacky souvenirs, “adult entertainment,” and more, as market forces (self-interest, competition and supply and demand: AKA the invisible hand of the market) continually puts businesses and other facilities in the city, and because it’s NYC, everything is right next to everything (placed to serve the concentrated demand in such a tight, concentrated space of real estate). That’s right, the blocks surrounding the WTC have STRIP CLUBS, Burger Kings, everything–NOT “hallowed ground.”

from The Village Voice
What is already here
Topless dancers catering to rich Wall Street guys
This is closer to the World Trade Center site than the Park51 project

Shady gambling place also on Park Place
Very much non-hallowed ground, an Off-Track Betting joint also on Park Place, even closer to the World Trade Center site than the Park51 project

Photo credit: History Eraser Button blog, Tumblr editorial director TopherChris and the Village Voice. I recommend everybody read the Village Voice’s take on this, which I think represents the feelings of most of us in Lower Manhattan pretty well: we’re tired of the lies and manufactured outrage and want to be LEFT ALONE.

I heard a host on NPR asking an outspoken opponent of Park51 what about the (actually a mosque) mosques also near the WTC, and he said “well, that preexisted 9/11 so they’re grandfathered in” but there should be no FURTHER mosques constructed in the area. When told that the Park51 project is modeled after the 92nd St Y, and is, by no definition (in Islam nor in the dictionary) “a mosque,” this guy brushed it off, disbelieving. What would he have said if told of the strippers, gambling and other low-brow establishments even closer to the WTC site? “How dare you say strip clubs aren’t sacred ground!!!”?? It’s like the opponents of this REALLY BELIEVE that this project (construction not slated to begin until 2015 or later) will be some huge domed mosque with minarets towering over “Ground Zero” and the muezzin’s call to prayer echoing off rubble and skeleton fragments as Taliban wield rifle butts to corral women in burqas. Nothing but fiction!!! It seems NOTHING can penetrate this fictitious narrative that the Right clings to, NOTHING. The machine (political/media machines) must have an enemy. The beast must be fed red meat to survive. The age-old bread and circus to distract the masses. The machine is all that matters–founding principles, the Constitution, even the physical safety of a religious minority BE DAMNED!

And it’s primarily fueled by lies and distortions ginned up by the shameless, ratings whores in cable news.

Fox News
Is this crap driven by the media? Yes, yes! A thousand times yes!

Violence is escalating now. A Bangladeshi cab driver was asked if he was Muslim and then brutally stabbed in midtown. Five teens were arrested in Waterport, upstate NY for firing at a mosque and disrupting a religious service. This has grown and grown beyond just a media distraction to threaten the peace and stability of our country, as well as our Constitutional principles and national soul.

Is religious freedom and the right of private property trumped by angry mobs ginned up by hate and fear? Are we at war with Islam itself and reject anything related to Islam on U.S. soil? (anti-Islam forces are battling Muslims trying to build on their own private property in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, California…and arsonists attacked the construction in Tennessee.) Are we already at war with 1.5 BILLION believers? if so, time for a draft. What are we at war with? How can we win over Iraq and Afghanistan, which hinges on “hearts and minds,” if we paint all Muslims as terrorists hell-bent on destruction? IT’S DECISION TIME!

Amid all this turmoil, the mainstream media wall-to-wall hate speech, countrymen set against each other, friends de-friending each other on facebook, what should those of us who want a teaching moment about religious liberty, private property and anti-violence DO?

I made the video blog below, my response to the right-wing talking heads on your TVs and internets about this project, really a Y to be built in a disused Burlington Coat Factory IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD! SuperAleja edited in captions for the Nick impaired.

My main points: the Burlington Coat Factory isn’t hallowed ground. Park51 is not a mosque and it is not at “Ground Zero,” and Islam is not evil.

Warning: the clips of right-wing talking heads spewing hate speech I use may be offensive and difficult to watch. Dick Morris paints all Muslims as radical enemies and says “all the other (mosques)” are “command centers for terrorism,” Newt Gingrich calls the people behind the Park51 project “radical Islamists” and compares the building to “a Nazi sign in front of the Holocaust museum” and self-described Christian conservatives are shown burning the Koran. I cringe seeing these clips, but we must recognize the bigotry in this country in order to squelch it and lower the heat of this issue.

Transcript of the video blog:

Hello, this is Nick Dupree for nickscrusade.org. And because I live only 4 or 5 blocks from this proposed Islamic community Center that has consumed all of American politics, I thought I should comment.

[O’Reilly clip]

All the arguments against this thing rely on the idea that Islam is somehow related to 9/11. And it would be like putting a statue of Hitler next to a Holocaust memorial; it would be like building a Robert Oppenheim school of nuclear science at Hiroshima. All these arguments are pure crap. Islam has nothing to do with 9/11, any more than Christianity has to do with the KKK. By the same logic, we couldn’t build a church near Atlanta’s Millennium Park because of the Christian extremists who bombed it. Or they say, it’s “hallowed ground”.

Oh no, you must not build on this hallowed ground! Okay, come on. It’s two blocks, two full city blocks, away from the World Trade Center. City blocks in New York City are huge, and there’s an entire culture in each city block different from the other ones. The city blocks around the World Trade Center already have everything–there’s already mosques, there are churches, there are strip clubs, there’s adult bookstores, there’s everything already in the surrounding blocks. And the place that they want to put this thing, is in a disused Burlington Coat Factory, for pete’s sake.

[Burlington Coat Factory commercial]
[NYC landmark commission unanimously ruling that there’s no reason to make the old Burlington Coat Factory an untouchable city landmark]

Come on! Stop telling me that the Burlington freaking Coat Factory is hallowed ground! It’s not on the site of the World Trade Center, and, it’s not a mosque, it’s an old Burlington Coat Factory. It’s going to be a community center like a YMCA, you know, with a gym, and a swimming pool, a culinary school, a food court, classrooms….. only a tiny part of it is going to be for prayer. And what’s so wrong about prayer? Don’t we have freedom of prayer, freedom of religion, and our very Constitution?

It’s not a mosque, there’s no minarets towering over the city. There’s no muezzin calling for prayer. It’s a crap argument. It shouldn’t even be a story, it’s a YMCA, for all intents and purposes. And they have the freedom to build what they want on their own property. It’s property rights, and a municipal land-use issue. It should be decided by those in the neighborhood, like myself.
Not the worst bigots in the country from a crazy church that wants to burn the Koran. [local Jacksonville news clip about this church’s “Burn A Koran” day]
Pat Robertson [clip of Robertson talking about “Cordoba mosque” (sic) on the 700 Club]
Dick Morris, [clip of O’Reilly interviewing Morris]
Newt Gingrich, [clip of Gingrich spewing hate speech on the Fox News morning show]
should these bigots decide what goes in my neighborhood, or should I decide it? Really it’s a no-brainer. Angry bigots, thousands of miles away, should not be deciding this. I, and the rest of the neighborhood, should decide it. There’s nothing dangerous, there’s nothing sinister, about the people that are behind this project, who are moderates. And they’re being painted, along with the entire religion of Islam, as evil. If we’re going to paint an entire religion of a billion and a half people with the same brush, then why would they make peace with us, why would anything change? So, the hate that we’re hearing all over the media… friends de-friending each other on Facebook over this, it really needs to stop. It’s a YMCA. Please, let the neighborhood decide this.

Please spread this blog post and video. Truth, justice and the American way will only exist to the extent we make it exist.


This is the 1337th post on nickscrusade.org. 1337!!!

A Thought For September 11

“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” — John F. Kennedy

Let’s take this idea “viral.”

September 11: Also Very Far Away

An Addendum To My Previous 9/11 Blog

In my last 9/11 blog, I commented on how raw the event still feels to me. How close it feels. How fresh the wound still is.

But it is also so very far away.

Isn’t it amazing that the second-graders who were reading “The Pet Goat” to the president when the attacks happened are now teenagers?! Wow.

Schoolchildren recall 9/11 with Bush

It’s a common (though minor) misconception that Bush read to the children on 9/11. They read to him.
And yes, the president really is holding the book upside down. That’s not an altered photo. The book really is upside down.

Those children are now teenagers.

9/11 is distant in that people have moved on, the feeling of unity following the attacks was fleeting, quickly and crassly exploited, and is now only a memory.

That the media and many people are dwelling and memorializing mostly has to do with something deeply ingrained in the human animal insisting that 5 and other anniversaries with round, finger-count fufilling numbers (10, 15, 20, 25, etc.) are deeply significant. The fifth anniversary is getting wall-to-wall coverage whereas the fourth got nearly none.

My last 9/11 post,September 11: Still Too Raw For Me,” provoked some interesting responses from my MySpace readers. One mentioned that the elementary class she helps drew pictures of the WTC, and some of the kids had been taught to hate Muslims. Another comment said: “This isn’t a time to be sad. This is a time to be angry.”

And I totally can see that point. I have some anger too, that 9/11 has become more a political slogan than an event. The memory of 9/11, something sacred, has been so exploited it’s tragic. It’s now more a cynical political weapon than anything else. In that way, it’s now very distant and meaningless, just a soundbite. You want checks and balances on the president? “You’ve failed to learn the lessons of 9/11” Bush keeps repeating. He even held his political convention in NYC. And he has used 9/11 to justify torture, secret and indefinite imprisonment without trial, the new Orwellian Department of Homeland Security, warrantless wiretaps and his invasion of Iraq, even when it is now proven Saddam had no link to 9/11 at all. A Justice Dept. memo said it all:

“In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President’s authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President’s determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make.

Thus, the president has no boundaries, no checks on his power. For the War on Terror, anything goes. Warrants? Rule of law? Geneva Convention? “Rendered quaint,” Attorney General Gonzales wrote. And this is a sharp break from the American traditions of liberty we’re so accustomed to.
“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security” Benjamin Franklin is oft-quoted as saying. Sadly, the nonsensical preserving of “freedom” by taking away freedoms, abandoning the American ideal is what 9/11 has come to mean to many of us.

Right after we invaded Iraq, I was talking about how we were blowing up civilians too much, and one of my Alabamian nurses said “have we killed as many as they killed on 9/11 yet?” Bush had made it sound like THEY (Iraqis) had attacked us, and THEY (they’re all the same) had to pay. Even the score. And the ignorant masses lapped it up.

Well ironically on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we’ve accrued 2,974 war dead in the unrelated Iraq war, just over the 2,973 lost to real terrorism on 9/11.

“And so here we are five years later. Fearmongering remains unceasing. So do tax cuts. So does the war against a country that did not attack us on 9/11. We have moved on, but no one can argue that we have moved ahead.”
Frank Rich, 9/10/2006

Keith Olbermann says it better than I ever could:

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President — and those around him — did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, “bi-partisanship” meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as “morally or intellectually confused”; as “appeasers;” as those who, in the Vice President’s words yesterday, “validate the strategy of the terrorists.”

This was Olbermann’s most powerful commentary yet. I don’t do it justice with this snippet. Be sure to see his whole speech here.

We were so united after 9/11. We could’ve done anything with that unity. And it breaks my heart and makes me sick at myself to now be writing about it as just another slimy political wedge like the president’s made it.

That’s what makes it distant. That’s what makes it business as usual. That’s what tells us the world is not any different than before. It’s probably even worse with vile corruption.

Fight the vile with the holy. Fight the power by bringing more goodness into the world. Fight the power.


Filed Under: Politics and Government

September 11: Still Too Raw For Me

Anniversary of Terror

September 11, 2001 my grandmother woke me up and told me the country was under attack. I turned on the TV and saw the replays of the second plane flying into the tower. It had just hit the tower — I SAW IT. I know what I saw; planes full of jet fuel hit the world’s tallest buildings at high velocity. I saw civilians trapped above the fires hold hands and jump off. I saw office papers scatter over Manhattan. I saw nurses at St. Vincent’s Hospital stand idle as almost no injured trickled in; people either were crushed dead by the building or got out. I watched TV for weeks as families wept for missing loved ones with no remains to bury. I heard the eerie silence of the skies above, clear with no planes as flying was banned. I listened as our theology professor Dr. Wilson nearly burst into tears of rage and said he felt like quitting, describing how a student had exploited the tragedy with him to get out of extra class the week of 9/11.
Damn that student. Damn selfish, inhuman freaks.

Damn the people making their fortune writing their own twisted novels of the victims’ worst moments and passing it off as fact.

Damn the people making their fortune making movies about the tragedy just as the 9/11 orphans have learned to talk enough to ask “where’s daddy?”

Damn you Bush who used this horror as an excuse to invade unrelated Iraqis while you hold hands with the Saudi despot whose countrymen planned and executed this.

Damn you politicans and armchair pundits on both sides who cynically and repeatedly wrap yourselves in the memories of those lost to score partisan points.

And damn the terrorists who twisted the name of G-d to justify murdering nearly 3,000 while they simply were working to feed their loved ones.

I have so little to say. 9/11 is far too raw for me to make it another cynical “business as usual.” Has America truly lost its humanity?


Filed Under: Politics and Government