Another 9/11 is here. Many memories, and many of those painful. I just have random ones, and not the painful ones of lost loved ones that too many carry, people murdered by delusional monsters.
I remember a person on a weather forum I was part of who is a NYFD guy, and he would nearly lose his mind at all the Rudy love post-9/11. His reason was Rudy refused to fund a new emergency communications system, which played a role in how bad things were for those heroes. As odd as it may seem for the young’uns, Rudy at one time was a saint, at a time when being a saint was kind of easy. The people getting shouted down for daring to suggest that Rudy wasn’t The Holiest of Holies? Well, their line for an apology should be rather long.
I was working at an Internet startup just outside of Pittsburgh on 9/11. I remember myself and two of my coworkers being told by the management team prior to a meeting that our report that one of the towers had fallen was ridiculous, no way could that ever happen. They were innocent times.
The South Asian people in my office, of which there were many, were a little freaked out. We were let go early given the fact that no one could really work on the day of the worst attack on the United States and my work buddies, which included two Desi people, went to lunch together to try to process it all. The Desi guys both freaked a bit when we arrived, suddenly struck with the worry that someone would do something to their food, and they made a point of telling the waitress they’re Hindu. Also that day, the two Muslims I worked with were driven home by their white supervisor, as she was concerned about them driving themselves at a time when no doubt people were looking for fast revenge. I heard over and over again that month about how they all pretty much stayed home, did not go out other than to grocery stores.
For a few days afterward, things seemed like they might be okay. Bush visited an Islamic center and with imams behind him, urged Americans not to attack minorities. My hometown of York PA, which is basically a diverse island in a sea of deep deep red (home of Scott Perry) had a story about an Egyptian immigrant couple who ran a suburban Exxon station, about how good people were being to them.
Then it all went off the rails. Soon Bush for some reason was beating a drum about Iraq. What? Iraq? To paraphrase a line from Bill Maher, we got punched in the nose and to respond, we are going to go beat up the nerdy kid who laughed at us.
Maher himself, who has evolved into even more of a distasteful narcissist than he was then, was canceled before there was a word for it over accurate remarks that he hopes we are not going to lob a few missiles at a couple of targets, and oh by the way, the terrorists showed bravery. Which they did, actually. What many American servicepeople showed in the years after during a futile and stupid war was valor, which is bravery plus honor. But people were touchy and got the two confused.
Then, Bush press guy Ari Fleischer flexed his fascism muscles by saying people needed to “watch what they say” in the months after the attacks. So much for FDR’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Ari embraced mindless fear with wide-open arms.
Today is a day of mourning but for many reasons. First off, of course, it is a day for remembering the victims. But it is also a day to mourn this distinct shift in our nation.
People want to remember the Bush administration as “not as bad as Trump” but arguably it was just as bad, just in different ways. We became a Nation That Tortures. The GOP was so focused on canceling that they changed the name of french fries to freedom fries and French’s mustard was so worried about a boycott that they had to stress that the name was not linked to France, but was a family name. Colin Powell had a moment in front of the UN that tarnished his legacy forever, although later he was a voice of reason in the administration and he owned his mistake (99% of Republicans never do).
Racism against Muslims gained a lot of steam, and it wasn’t just the far-right fanning the flames. The Dipshit Centrists led the charge, too, making a very strong case that a lot of highly visible media centrists seem to be closeted far-right pundits, given the frequency of agreement with the worst opinions at the moment.
The country just seemed to get meaner after 9/11. It also seemed to launch the era of misinformation. This was pre-social media, so we had to rely on chain emails. Three of them stick in my mind – the Muslim Dunkin Donut employees celebrating the attack, multiple ones about terror attacks on malls (never happened of course), and the funniest: Everyone tonight at 9 pm go into your backyard and light a candle, the space shuttle will take a picture of America glowing in the candlelight, which of course was total bullshit but didn’t stop several of my neighbors from doing it. The anti-misinformation website Snopes got its start debunking chain emails, which were spread by people like your crazy but sincere aunt. People forget about all this, but the first decade of this century foreshadowed the meanness and stupidity by some Americans that we see today.
So, today is the day of remembrance and mourning. It is not like the pre-9/11 era was a time of reasoned and smart thinking – there was an insane shark-attack hysteria in the summer leading up to 9/11 – but it also seemed to be the dawn of a not-so-great era in American history. I am a fairly hopeful person; so I am going to end with a bit of optimism. We do not have to be this way, and there are enough good people in America that we can change paths. We have a lot of work to do on that end, but it is not impossible.
The last word goes to the people of New York, who have a bad rep as very unfriendly and mean but in my experience in visiting, seem to be more like this:
Say whatever you want about New Yorkers, this is what we’re really like pic.twitter.com/PTFmI6bNBM
— Stop Cop City (@JoshuaPHilll) September 10, 2023