11 September 2006

Just reflecting, like everyone else (BR)

All the bloggers are talking today about how they mean not to prattle or preach or otherwise ramble on about the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Following their caveats, most that I read went on to do just that -- there being notable exceptions, of course. I'd like to take the opportunity to apologize for some things I did and said in the hours and days following the monumental and still incomprehensible tragedy and in doing so, wrap my mind fully around the event.

First, I'm sorry I left. I was born in Brooklyn, raised at various spots in Kings, Queens and Nassau Counties. I am a New Yorker, something I don't fail to inform any latecomer Midwesterner of when we're drunkenly jockeying for hipster cred. I had been a college freshman at New York University for all of a week when the towers fell. We spent the afternoon hours waiting on a line that stretched completely around the hospital block when I was informed I couldn't give blood, as I'd been pierced and tattooed in the previous six months. And instead of sticking around to see if there was anything else I could do, either substantial or symbolic, for the city I loved, I cravenly got on the last Long Island Railroad train at Penn Station and went back to my parents' house in Oceanside. Classes were cancelled and so I stayed away for a week.

When I got back I had a newfound sense of patriotism but also a militant streak that right now I wouldn't recognize or understand in myself. I posted an article on my dorm room door titled "To Be Anti-War Is To Be Pro-Fascist" and when it was ripped down by some idiot on my floor, I printed it out and taped it up again. I told my friends I would gladly take up arms and go fight in Afghanistan. Sitting and smoking on the stoop of Weinstein Hall on University Place where I lived, a young Socialist Worker came up to me with a flyer pleading for reason and restraint on the part of the United States, and opposing any military response to the terror attacks. I put my cigarette out on the paper and threw it in his direction.

I became a big fan of George W. Bush. I thought his leadership in the wake of Sept. 11 had been stellar, and that our retaliation against the Taliban had been appropriate. I didn't understand or much care about the USA/PATRIOT Act, nor did I follow -- or vote in -- the 2002 Congressional elections when the bunch of chickenhawks and bold opportunists who control Washington today smeared brave men like Max Cleland, who served his country with distinction and dignity, for cheap political gain. I was swept up in the violent, cowardly fervor of nationalism that, as Madison warned, arrived in the guise of love of one's country.

By the time talk of an invasion of Iraq began, I had wisened up. Seeing a bunch of grown men (and one woman) frothing with anticipation about going to war AGAIN, to fight an enemy who had not attacked us and whom no one could prove even had such a capability, I could not continue to delude myself into supporting the Bush administration.

Sometimes I feel nostalgic for the period immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks.

It sounds strange and it feels stranger to admit, but the fact that 19 sadistic sociopaths could, in less than an hour, grab the attention of the entire world, made me think that the power for good, of a magnitude equal or greater to the level of horror inflicted by the cruel savages on those planes, could be wielded by an individual, or a small group of well-intentioned people, so as to make everyone sit up and take notice. I'm not sure I believe that anymore.

But today I'd simply like to apologize to my friends, my city and my country for not sticking around in their hour of need, for being rude to, and intolerant of, those with whose views I disagreed, and for having ever been excited and enthusiastic about the idea of killing people -- especially the idea of sending other people to do it -- and behaving in the bloodthirsty manner with which our President and his cabinet have shamed the good name and standing of America in the minds of peaceful people around the world.

God Bless America ... and may God forgive our leaders. Thanks.


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