Thursday, 2003-09-11; 09:46:00

I figured that I'd take a few minutes out of my hectic morning (even though I'm late for work) to share with my readers the opinions that I have on the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers that occurred two years ago today. But instead of writing another "heartfelt remembrance" for the attacks, I think I'd rather write a much more poignant and relevant piece to today. Besides, I didn't know anybody who was in the WTC towers at the time of the attacks, and I don't think I know anybody who knew someone who was in them, either. So it's probably not my prerogative to go and write a "heartfelt remembrance".

It took me quite a bit of time to decide whether to put this entry into the personal or the political category, because it could really go in either of them; however, ultimately, this is probably more of a personal opinion than a political rant, and I hope that it doesn't come off as another liberal rant against the current administration, even though I could easily go off in that direction.

After getting into bed last night, I briefly remembered that it had passed midnight and that today was the second anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I didn't really think about it; probably the only thing I did was roll my eyes, sigh, and try to get to sleep. I haven't really been getting much sleep lately, but that's something entirely different.

This morning, I woke up, and it was like a totally normal day. I didn't immediately think about the significance of today, and today basically started as any other day would -- thinking about what I need to do to get ready to go to work, if I have time to peruse some websites before going to eat breakfast, etc. Even when I went on my computer and looked at the date, it didn't immediately strike me. Only after a number of websites had put up small notices of what today means did I really remember. And yet, still, my gut reaction is the same as the one that I had earlier today when I got into bed.

I'm sure many people would accuse me (and perhaps rightly so) of being a cynic. I not only question a lot of things around in the world (which would be a skeptic), but I often have points of view that are very controversial, and very negative. That's probably true in many cases, especially when my opinions start interfering with my sarcasm. But I'm going off on yet another tangent. I think my views that I'm going to express today are more of a skeptic than a cynic, and I'm trying to keep it that way, especially when dealing with the tragedy that occurred two years ago today.

The first thing I think of when I see the whole front page dedicated to the September 11th terrorist attacks, or a website that has taken the day off to remember the tragedy, I think they're putting too much importance and giving the event so much more attention than it really deserves. There are so many more tragedies of which one can think that are many times more tragic than the September 11th attacks. Take the Holocaust, for example -- MILLIONS of people lost their lives to a person who by all accounts is probably more "evil" than the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks. That event took place about 50 years ago. Why don't we continue to honor the victims in that attack to the scale that we do for the victims of the September 11th attacks? I don't recall any time in recent memory where the whole front page of the newspaper was dedicated to the Holocaust. Does the fact that it happened 50 years ago rather than 2 years ago cheapen the lives lost during that period of time? I certainly hope not.

Maybe after time, an event becomes remembered enough that we don't feel the need to dedicate the front page of the newspaper to it anymore. (Believe me, that is not supposed to be a sarcastic or cynical comment -- I can't think of any better way to put why we don't honor the Holocaust anymore.) Truth be told, I also think that sometimes people put too much importance in the Holocaust as well.

If time is the only "requirement" for front-page dedication, why don't we remember those lives lost in the suicide bombings that occur practically every day in Israel or Palestine? Over the course of the past year or so, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of lives lost just due to the conflict that is occurring in that area. Why don't we continue to honor these victims? By all accounts, their lives were lost much more recently than the lives lost in the September 11th attacks. Does the fact that there is not one event that we can point to and say, "Hey, look how many people's lives were lost in one instant?"... does that fact cheapen the lives lost?

I can't really find any good way to put why we don't honor these people, either. Perhaps we need a single event that happens in a relatively short period of time where thousands of people died in order to honor the lives lost. Then let's take the 3000-some-odd deaths that occurred just this past summer in France, because of the massive heat wave that took Europe by storm. Why don't we continue to honor THOSE people with front-page remembrances? Are their lives cheapened because of the fact that they weren't killed by some "evil" guy wielding a bunch of weapons and power and taking the world hostage?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but just the fact that they can be posed makes me think that there is something seriously wrong with the way that we remember the September 11th terrorist attacks. Maybe it's not that we put too much importance in the September 11th attacks, but that we put too little importance into lives lost in other areas of the world and at other times. Certainly the September 11th attacks are events that are truly horrific, and they should go down in the history books so that no one will forget what happened two years ago today.

And this brings me to my second (rather large) point. I was listening to the radio last night to an interview with an economist who was talking about the September 11th attacks' effect on the United States' attitude as a whole, and the current administrations' way of exploiting the September 11th attacks to further their political agenda. During the interview, he said something that really rung true with me. To paraphrase, he basically said that the September 11th attacks won't be a turning point of which we will really be proud; on the contrary, the "turning point" ultimately made our society a society of fear and terror, which was exploited by many people to further their political agenda. Of course, there's the war in Iraq which was supported by much of the American public because of the exploitation of fear of attacks like the ones on September 11th.

If people think that the September 11th attacks were really a turning point for the better in American society, I have a few questions to ask of you. What in our society has changed for the better? The PATRIOT act, which came directly out of the September 11th terrorist attacks, simply gives the government sweeping powers to infringe on the privacy of American citizens and American residents, with which they arrest and detain people for no discernable reason just because they look like a terrorist or have a similar name. There were people who damaged homes and stores run by Arab-Americans just because they came from the same area as the perpetrators of the September 11th terrorist attacks. We now have increased airport security, but all that has done for us is make people lose jobs, force people to stand in line at the airport to get their shoes swabbed, and cost many people a lot of time and caused a lot of stress because people now have to get to the airport about two hours earlier than the scheduled departure time instead of an hour or even less before the September 11th attacks. A man was denied passage on a flight simply for having a book that had a bomb on the cover. And last, but most certainly not least, have we even found one of the main people who organized the September 11th attacks and brought him to justice? No, we haven't. Instead, we've changed our focus to ousting a totally different dictator in an entirely different country for nonexistent reasons. Is this really a society in which one is proud to live? Did we really change for the better?

I think sometimes the American public is even guilty of cheapening the September 11th terrorist attacks, to an extent. This is a different kind of cheapening than the kind of which I talked earlier. No, this is the cheapening of the September 11th attacks by using catchy phrases and by remembering the attacks simply by sticking an American flag on the back of one's car.

Take a look at CNN's front page -- "We will never forget". And yet, on the same page, there's still advertisements for Time magazine, and even CNN itself. Or how about RailHeadDesign.com's front page. How clever -- instead of the ever-classic "always remember, never forget" (which is totally stupid because it's redundant, anyway), the popular phrase is twisted around to "remembering today, forgetting never" (which is not redundant, but it's still the same old catchy phrase). Look at the egregious use of the American flag all over, too... like on RailHeadDesign.com's front page, or on MacMinute.com's front page. Or just look at the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle -- no doubt they chose the photo of a woman with an American flag bandana around her neck for a reason. Why is it that only American flags should be displayed when thinking about the September 11th terrorist attacks? Isn't the horror of this attack not that American people were killed in an American building on American soil, but that PEOPLE KILLED PEOPLE? That's the tragedy that I see from the September 11th attacks. I think a U.N. flag, or a flag with simply the Earth on it, is a much more appropriate symbol to display. Is this a tragedy that only Americans are allowed to remember?

Just look around you. Probably somewhere today you will see at least one American flag ribbon that is twisted around. You'll probably see some person displaying an American flag on his bumper or in his back window. No doubt you'll see "Always remember, never forget" plastered on some building or some vehicle. And you'll probably hear people talking about today by saying "nine eleven", just because they're too lazy to say "the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers", or even "the September 11th terrorist attacks".

I don't know about any of you, but I'm a bit sick of all this. I'd suggest you close your newspaper, turn off the radio, and turn off the TV. Then, go and read this piece of writing, penned by Jack over at As the Apple Turns. If you do only one thing today to remember the September 11th terrorist attacks, go and read that.

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