Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Good That Came Out of 9/11

I've never been one to dwell in the past. Whatever mistakes I've made, I learn from and move on. The people I've hurt, the people who have hurt me, I find it easier to forget them than to wonder what might have been.

September 11, that's a hard thing to ignore, particularly on a big fat juicy anniversary like the fifteenth.

Such tragedies don't happen often in a nation's history. Tragedies similar, yes. Hell, we lose more innocent people to gun violence in a year than we lost on September 11, by a factor of three.

Normally, I acknowledge the day with a small prayer for the victims and for the nation to find the wisdom to prevent this form occurring again.

Something bothered me this weekend, tho: usually out of terrible events, some good can be found: connections, outcomes, developments.

Take Pearl Harbor: you can trace a line from Pearl Harbor to the end of the Great Depression, the rise of the American automotive and housing industries (after the war, the GI Bill helped these become powerhouses), the racial and gender equality movements, the computer, nuclear energy, the rise of the middle class in America, and any number of other positives that shaped the nation today.

Maybe it's just too soon to really recognize what September 11 gave us a gift. After all, many of the things on the list of Pearl Harbor took decades to come about.

Some did not. Some were almost immediate.

So I meditated on this theme a little: can we point to anything and say it is ultimately a positive for our country?

Let's look at the immediate aftermath of the attacks: we declared war and invaded two nations, one of which, as it turned out, was not even close to having anything to do with the attacks (indeed, we shared a common enemy with Saddam Hussein and probably should have used him as our proxy in retaliating.)

We wasted trillions of dollars hunting down the perpetrators who planned and financed the attacks. We endangered our allies in the Coalition of the Bought and Paid For (7/7/07, among any number of terror attacks in Europe and Asia). We blew up a budget deficit that was already skyrocketing from the ill0conceived triple tax cuts of the Bush administration -- remember, Bill Clinton left us on the path to economic solvency with a surplus that, projected, could have paid off the entire national debt.

Our housing market exploded thanks to low interest rates, a President who on the day after 9/11 encouraged us to spend as a show of our patriotism -- encouraging people to take out HELOCs and second mortgages -- and a complete and deliberate lack of oversight from the Federal government, creating the Lesser Great Depression of 2008, when Americans ended up more in debt than the government ($128 trillion to $104 trillion by 2007) and much that debt was suddenly being called in.

Because, conservatives. Conservatives suck.

Our culture suffered, too. America has long been a deeply paranoid nation, but our paranoia ran towards delusions of grandeur: we couldn't be hurt. An ocean protected us.

After 9/11, that quaint jingoism turned dark and ugly: we began to see shadows in the daylight, afraid of our neighbors, even people who lived here for years. Not just Muslims, either. Look at our egregious reduction in voting rights of minorities across the board, the nasty depiction of hard working immigrants as "illegal aliens," the rise of the men's rights activists and the war on uteri.

Things we had assumed were generally viewed as good things: that everyone has a right to vote, that everyone was free to immigrate here and help us build a nation, that a human body was sacrosanct from government intrusion, all went by the board after September 11.


I think it's because 9/11 hastened trends that had been building for decades: the dismantling of the middle class by the monied classes, for one thing. The inevitable downward slope of a nation's power, that history teaches us is unavoidable since it touches facets of society that are not easily predicted, is another factor.

That wages have been stagnant for thirty five years while productivity has skyrocketed beyond even what we could expect from the technological revolution speaks to me of a people scared of the future, and willing to effectively become indentured servants to the whims of a boss who at any moment can pick up and head to the exits and the greener pastures of southeast Asia.

All happening as the government is forced to withdrawal from the social safety net by a small but wealthy few who demand it.

You see what I mean about the difficulty in finding the good of September 11.

But there hope. For one thing, we as a nation rose up after we understood the treasons of the Bush administration and threw conservatives out of the executive and legislative branch (one house, admittedly...conservatives had already rigged the other one for permanent status).

Yes, we gave the Senate back in 2010 and if there's a reason to hate Debbie Wasserman-Schulz's reign as DNC chair, it's that she oversaw over 700 electoral losses in her tenure, many that could have been prevented.

We elected the first African American president. We are poised to elect the first woman President (the polls don't sweat me: in 2008, John McCain was leading Barack Obama at this stage), and to take back the Senate.

We are about to turn Texas into a blue state, while keeping California and New York. Maybe Texans are finally just that embarrassed by their state politics, that gave us Bush 43, and Rick "Three Strikes" Perry, and Ted Cruz, and Greg Abbott.

We have young people who galvanized around a 70-something Jew from Brooklyn who asked, "wouldn't it be nice if we could have back some of the blessings we worked so hard for forty years ago?"

We saw the Occupy movement. We see the Black Lives Matter movement. We see anger and outrage being channeled into challenging the system, instead of at each other.

This fall's elections is a critical benchmark in the movement to a progressive America, and so if there's any good to speak of out of September 11, it's that we are moving in the right direction.