"Post-9/11 America"Posted: December 9, 2006
I was putting my daughter to bed recently, letting my mind wander as I waited for her to fall asleep, when the phrase “post-9/11 America” drifted through my head. I have always, since the day of the attacks, been uncomfortable with the government’s and media’s appropriation of the attacks as a means of manipulating the public, and it finally occurred to me why.
Most other nations have experienced war on their own soil: even if we only go back to, say, 1776, we would be hard pressed to find a nation that has not suffered war or imperial oppression & violence within their borders. For examples: in Europe, there were the revolutions of the mid-1800s, and of course the World Wars; in Asia, WWII and Vietnam; Africa was carved up by Europe, and then abandoned to civil wars and ethnically/religiously-fueled violence; Central and South America have been subjected to numerous military “interventions” by the United States in the last, say, 70 years, not to mention the skirmish over the Falklands (which the British needed for “strategic sheep purposes”).
America, by contrast, has suffered relatively little. The Revolutionary War was confined to what is now a relatively small part of the country, as was the Civil War. Pearl Harbor happened in the middle of the Pacific; 9/11 was an isolated attack. They were tragedies, to be sure; but the wars happen elsewhere.
That, to me, is the arrogance of America’s constant focus on 9/11. We as a nation have never experienced the horror of war in our own cities. We have not been bombarded by Nazis, or firebombed by the Allies, or nuked, or occupied by a hostile army. There was rationing during WWII, but our cities weren’t reduced to rubble. Millions of American men and women have died serving in the Armed Forces, but civilians do not daily fear for their lives during wartime. We are now, of course, worried about the possibility of another terrorist attack; but this is a different worry than that of a mother in Israel or Palestine that her husband or child will be killed by a suicide bomber, or the worry of an Englishman or a German during WWII that they’ll be killed in a bombing. It seems recreational in comparison, like our worry about the possibility of another al-Qaeda attack is on par with our worry that Starbucks will sell out of blueberry muffins before we can get there.
Were we, in 1950, a “post-Pearl-Harbor” America? We were, of course, because it was an event that had happened in the past, and we as a nation would never be the same. But the “post-9/11” mentality we’ve had for the last five years strikes me as false, as though we’re trying to cast ourselves as victims. Some of us were; some people died, and more lost fathers, husbands, mothers, wives, sisters, brothers, friends. But the war has happened somewhere else; it is somewhere else that the violence makes normal life precarious, or impossible; somewhere else that fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers – civilians, mind you, not soldiers – still die every day.