Today, obviously, marks the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, a defining moment in our (short) experience of American History. And, with that anniversary has come the breadth of remembrances and memorials. It is, aptly, a point of looking back, around, and forward. I’d like to do just that.
In the end, the attacks killed 2,996 people [source]. Certainly, an abomination and rightly an affront to human dignity and life. And that is what is important, this is a human disaster, not an American one. Branding 9/11 into some kind of rallying cry — some kind of Alamo-esque banter, this omnipresent “never forget” — shapes this into something much more malicious and dangerous than the first attacks ever were. Making these attacks into a rallying call of fear and nationalism leads to a narrow patriotism which dangerously seeps us in an ‘us vs. them mentality.’
This mentality has been used to justify utterly inexplicable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and indeed across the world. It has been used to build a state deeply in debt, one even deeper in fear, a “homeland-security state” that thrives on, and indeed requires, an abstract enemy and unquestioningly confronts those people with the full force of our own institutional violence.
This confrontation has run deeply into the realm of an abomination. Consider the reality:
Our war in Iraq has killed at least 102,417 civilians alone [source]. In reality, this number may be significantly higher, but accurate counting is a difficult and non-beneficial measure for us, the invading force. In Afghanistan, reports of non-combat deaths are very hard to find, but are more than 30,000; the numbers in Pakistan may be similar or even higher [source]. In Iraq, the war in part has left 3-4.5 million children orphans [source]. It has further created some 3.2 million refugees [source]. Finally, it has cost the American people some $4,400,000,000,000 (that’s $4.4 trillion) [source].
For more information about the costs of our ongoing war, check out the excellent http://costsofwar.org/
It bears well to remember Eisenhower’s famous quote,
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. … This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. … Is there no other way the world may live?”
So as we look back, we must also remember to look around. What we see should alarm us. What we see should drive us to remember the atrocity of 9/11, and realize the true atrocity any war (especially those that we are tacitly funding and supporting) brings with it. Centrally, it should bring about something very different than the apathy surrounding our bellicose, war-making state. Certainly, it should call us to a moment of critical consciousness and a collective call to a new way of being and sharing in humanity.
War is an affront to human life and dignity.
War is terrorism.
So with the list of 3000 names being read today, don’t forget the litany of unspoken names. Don’t forget the daily attacks we carry out. That’s what the dead of 9/11 cry out for. They cry out, in hope, for peace. That’s the common song of all people. Let’s not be afraid to boldly, reverently, and passionately sing that song with our lives.
In the eternal words of the Medellín conference, “Peace is not found, it is built!”
If you are looking for a fantastic read along these lines, read this fantastic piece from Al Jazeera today, “Let’s forget 9/11” by Tom Engelhardt.
(views are that of Tim, not explicitly that of the Cortina Program or those within the community)
L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. — Noah and the Whale
Same Thing — Flobots
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps — CAKE
Do You Hear the People Sing? — Les Misérables
Sólo le Pido a Dios — Mercedes Sosa
Animal Arithmetic–– Jónsi
Yo Yo Ma Plays Morricone: the Mission — Yo Yo Ma.
We are Winning — Flobots
One Voice — The Wailin’ Jennys