Twisting Personal Tragedy to Advance Unrelated and Evil Public Ends

Yesterday, Minkoff Minx wrote a beautiful and eloquent post that described her personal experience of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. I was so grateful to read what she wrote, because she simply described her own experience and emotions about what happened. She didn’t try to speak for her husband or any of the the other survivors–just herself. She also shared some wonderful resources for getting in touch with how we felt on that day ten years ago, when our country was attacked by foreign terrorists.

On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives to terrorist attacks as they were either beginning their days at work at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or traveling on airplanes scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles, Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, and Newark to San Francisco. For the families and friends of those who died, life would never again be the same. Thousands of others, like Minx’s husband, survived, but their lives and those of their families were also forever altered.

Thousands more were either directly impacted by the trauma of witnessing the attacks close up from their homes in New York or Washington, DC. Thousands of first responders were also directly affected by the attacks and their aftermath, including people who traveled to NYC, DC, and PA to help search for survivors or to support first responders.

Those of us who helplessly watched the events as they played out on television were affected too, although few of us probably suffered from post-traumatic stress as a result. But we empathized with those who were directly impacted, and we felt the terrible shock of having our country attacked. I can remember how shocked I was that day. I was on vacation at a Rhode Island beach with my family. It was a gorgeous day and I was out sightseeing with my parents and my sister when we heard the news. My sister had spoken to someone in a museum store and heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. We headed back to the beach house as we listened to reports on the radio. My brother and his wife were watching TV at the beach house when we got back.

For the next couple of days we quietly read newspapers or watched TV. My sister’s husband drove out from Indiana to get her because the planes weren’t flying and she was very frightened. I had to go back to Boston to start teaching classes a couple of days later, and I recall that I felt nervous and jumpy while driving alone. Like many others, I was fearful of more attacks. At the time, everything was so confusing, I didn’t know what to expect. I also felt shame that two of the planes used in the attacks flew out of Logan Airport in Boston.

Most of us probably have clear memories of where we were and what we were doing that day and following days. We’re told told Americans pulled together after September 11, 2001, although I don’t really recall feeling that myself. But I have no doubt that millions of people empathized with those who were directly affected. As I mentioned above, many people took action by traveling to the places that were attacked to help in any way they could. Nothing that has happened since can change the basic caring and good will of the American people.

Yet for the past week, I’ve felt anger every time I saw the upcoming anniversary of September 11 being hyped on TV–the endless replaying of the videos of the planes hitting the towers; the preachy fake patriotism of the talking heads; the sudden reappearance of disgraced politicians George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld; the constant talk of “security” and the repetition of the words “the homeland,” which is so reminiscent of the Nazi term “the fatherland.” How could I not be angry after all that our government has done in the past ten years to supposedly avenge the lives lost on 9/11?

First there was the attack on Afghanistan, supposedly to catch Osama bin Laden. But when there was a chance to capture or kill bin Laden, Bush decided not to. Next came the barrage of lies from the Bush administration and from media sources like The New York Times and Washington Post, in order to get us into a second war in Iraq. Those wars have killed far more than 3,000 young American soldiers and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis–and for what? No effort was made to confront Saudi Arabia–where most of the perpetrators and the financial support for the attacks came from. Over the past ten years we have seen the progressive erosion of our Constitutional rights in the name of “security” and “safety.” We have learned that our government captured and imprisoned people–often completely innocent people–without evidence or charges at Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib, at Bagram, and untold other prisons around the world. We know that many of these people were tortured and killed. Americans voted for Barack Obama in hopes that he would end the pointless wars and stop the rendition and torture. Instead, he has continued the wars and continued to rendition people to foreign prisons where they will be tortured. He has ordered drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen. He has continued the erosion of our Constitution rights and defended the Bush administration at every opportunity. These are the reasons I felt angry at the jingoistic celebrations of the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.

And what has become of the survivors of the 9/11 attacks? Every effort was made to keep any compensation they received to a minimum. And what of the first responders who were exposed to the toxic environment at Ground Zero in NYC? They have been denied the help they need along with the recognition of what they suffered. The Bush administration resisted any investigation of why the attacks were not prevented, and when they finally allowed a 9/11 commission–largely because of the efforts of four 9/11 widows (The Jersey Girls), they kept the Commission from from going “too far” in holding anyone in the administration accountable.

It was healing for me to read Minkoff Minx’s post, because she spoke of her personal pain and losses and how she was living with the aftereffects. I was able to recall my pure memories of that day, and how I worried about the reactions of my students, how I tried to get discussions going in my classes so we could share our reactions. For a short time as I read yesterday morning’s post, I was able to recall the pure feeling of loss from that day ten years ago before the tragedy was twisted to start wars that would decimate our economy and pass laws that would erode our individual rights and freedoms.

Yesterday morning, Paul Krugman wrote a brief but heartfelt blog post expressing some of the feelings I’ve tried to express with my post today. I’m going to take the liberty of reproducing Krugman’s statement here:

September 11, 2011, 8:41 am
The Years of Shame
Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?

Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.

What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.

A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?

The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

For this brief blog post expressing his personal sadness over the way government, politicians, and media have twisted private tragedy to accomplish their own unrelated and corrupt ends, Paul Krugman has been attacked by right wingers and Islamophobics all over the internet. He has been called every name in the book for simply speaking his own truth. He has also gotten some support from liberal blogs, and other bloggers have discussed their own misgivings about the changes in our country after 9/11. I want to share a few of those reactions.

Nicole Belle at Crooks & Liars: While Thinking People Grapple With 9/11 Legacy, RWNJs Shoot The Messenger

Cliff Schecter at Al Jazeera English: 9/11 and Its Great Transformations

Kristin Breitweiser: No Place To Go But Up: Howard Schultz’ Upward Spiral 2011

Blue Texan at FDL: Krugman is Right: We Should Be Ashamed of What Happened After 9/11

Dave Weigel at Slate: Get Krugman!

I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is that ten years after September 11 2001, I still have faith in the basic goodness and caring of the American people, but I am even more suspicious of and cynical about the U.S. Government and the U.S. Media than ever before. I do think we need to be eternally vigilant, not about physical danger from foreign terrorists but from the constant psychological manipulations emanating from those who claim to be protecting and informing us.

15 Comments on “Twisting Personal Tragedy to Advance Unrelated and Evil Public Ends”

  1. Branjor says:

    I do think we need to be eternally vigilant, not about physical danger from foreign terrorists but from the constant psychological manipulations emanating from those who claim to be protecting and informing us.

    Manipulation by fear – one of the oldest and most effective methods of social control known to man.

  2. Beata says:

    I didn’t comment on Minx’s beautiful post yesterday because I felt it wasn’t my place somehow. I was far from NYC on 9/11; at home, taking care of my mother. I was busy getting her breakfast, giving her medications, and cleaning the house. I had the TV on in the background. I watched in horror as the events unfolded. I could not believe my eyes. Who was attacking us? Was it the beginning of WWIII? What was happening? Oh, God help us!

    I quickly got my mother away from the TV. She was born in Manhattan and also had vivid memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I wanted to protect her from being frightened. I was so frightened myself I could barely think. Indeed, I was frightened for months; fearing every plane that went overhead. I can only imagine what people in NYC experienced. I didn’t watch any of the news yesterday, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the dead, their families, and those who survived. And I cried.

    Yesterday, I didn’t think about the government’s shameful actions in the aftermath. They are also almost too painful to recall. And yet they continue. We are still in Afghanistan – and Iraq. Lives are still being lost. No end in sight.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories, Beata. I tried to stay away from radio and TV yesterday, because the buildup for the past week had been just too much. It did make me feel better to read Minx’s post and to be able to think about the human tragedy that occurred. Sadly our “leaders” chose to manipulate that tragedy, and it is very painful to think about it.

  3. dakinikat says:

    I was pretty shocked at how so many people twisted Krugman’s words into something completely different. But then, the right wing does that and many people fall for their dog whistles. I’ve noticed that the shock doctrine applies mightily in these situations which is why days like this should be dedicated to memory of victims and bravery of first responders who are basically our public employees that are being vilified by the same people. They did the same thing with Katrina. We got horrible Bobby Jindal as a result. They used it to turn our school system into a set of charter schools that are really just little places where you can’t get teacher unions started and where administrators cheat to get test results. They also used us to practice maneuvers with black helicopters for ‘food riots’. Bush et all wanted to take control of the State National Guard away from the Governor and withheld aid for the city for days over this. Jeb Bush got a no bid contract to provide huge pumps to a new outfall canal structure that weren’t functional, rattled and shook, and endangered us for three years or so and took huge amounts of money to fix when they were BRAND new. I heard them 1/2 mile away in my office overlooking the lake whenever they were turned on. It was like hearing a tornado come through. Halliburton was hired to feed people when there plenty of restaurants around that needed business. The Bush administration profited from our tragedy and they undoubtedly profited from 911 in some ways I can’t name like this because I wasn’t in NYC to witness it. That carpetbaggery is under shadowed–however–besides all the damage done in ways that will last far longer. That would beillegal wire taps, spying on citizens, rendering citizens to foreign nations for torture, and now the Obama addition of assassinating citizens without due process. Then, there’s the entire horrible drum beating of bigots against hapless Muslims.

    When we have these national tragedies, the powers that be use them to their advantage and to the advantage of carpetbaggers. It’s hard for me to think of 9-11 and not think that–in the end–the terrorists won because we’ve lost so much of our civil liberties and we killed, maimed, harmed, tortured and jailed innocent people. Throughout the rest of the year they are now attacking firefighters, EMS, police and all the civil service unions that did respond. I’m getting tired of watching these examples of the shock doctrine and now when I hear about 9/11 the only thing I think of is Rahm’s never let a good crisis go to waste …

    and shame on the people that are trumping up these false charges of anti-patriotism against Krugman …we lost a lot of what is good in this country by how our government chose to respond to it and that has nothing to do with the first responders or the victims. They were just used like pawns.

    Thanks for this BB… I’ve woken up to two very moving posts in two days. Minx’s personal stories are really what 9/11 should be about. Not more jingoistic false patriotism that hides the destruction of constitutional rights.

    The only thing I did connected to 9/11 was read Minx’s post. I avoided the TV all day yesterday. The patriotic hoopla is always used to cover up the tracks of carpetbaggery. If they really wanted to pay tribute to people, they’d cover the cancer treatments and psychological care of the living victims and they’d admit horrible mistakes were made and bring home the troops and apologize for creating unnecessary wars and death of innocents. Also, Rumsfeld and Cheney would be turned over to the Hague, not happily doing book tours.

  4. dakinikat says:

    Weigal’s got a tweet from Rumsfeld who got his panties in bunch over Krugman and cancelled his NYT subcription. We need to cancel Rumsfeld. He belongs over at the Hague with the Gadhafi family.

    Here’s ONE reason. Lest we FORGET.

    Plans For Iraq Attack Began On 9/11

  5. Minkoff Minx says:

    Thank you for writing this post BB, now it is your turn, you have written something so emotional…everything you say is true, I feel it down in the pit of my heart. That raw feeling, where you can’t control the way your mouth contorts as the emotion pores out of you. The hardness in your lungs as you take in breaths, fast and quick, only to hurt more when you try and calm yourself by breathing in real deep and long.

  6. Peggy Sue says:

    I’ve got a hunch the plans [or at least the desire] for an Iraq attack started before 9/11. Never let a crisis go to waste, as they say. There’s no question that 9/11 was enormous psychic shock for the whole country. And for those who lost friends and loved ones or lived through the subsequent recovery and cleanup I’m sure it was unspeakable. My former college roomate, a native New Yorker said the fear of additional attacks was everywhere you turned. Shortly after the attacks that fear and anxiety was probably justified but there’s little question that Bush &Co ratcheted up the quotient every chance they got. A decade of unrelenting war is testimony to the power of keeping the public in a constant state of emergency..

    And are we safer? A lot of people would say: not really. We’ve just created more and more enemies and brought the Nation to its knees economically. I’ll always remember Bush’s call to the public: Go shopping. That’s apparently all we’re good for. That and sending our kids into battle. All the blood and treasure spent and wasted, all the profiteering by a select few on the backs of many. It dishonors the people who died on 9/11. It dishonors us all.

  7. Fannie says:

    I really enjoyed reading all your postings on the Then and Now of September 11th.
    And like so many of you, I cried and cried, and went crazy knowing that so many people lost their lives for NOTHING. That was my reaction ten years ago. I prayed for quick ends for those who were suffering so very badly. There was no way then to take my mind off of it, and ten years later, I again am happy to see so many people still with us, but saddened that many of the responders have passed on due to cancers, etc. As I listened to tv yesterday, I once again was in touch with those depressing feelings regardings Sept 11. It will always be with me, with us.

  8. Fannie says:

    While we are on the subject, I will always remember the feeling I had about the Holy Wars which came into the circle on Sept 11, thanks to Bush.

    I had taken notes, starting about 4 hours after the attack. Within that period of time 36 men had something to say in the meida, and only 4 women, Madline Albright, Fienstein, (didn’t write the other names) had something to say. I knew that we had not achieved what I had been hoping for. That women would be at the round table among the men, and that didn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, there were some women covering the attack via news, but we did not hear from those women who worked as flight attendants, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, until much much later. I hope that as we compare the “then” and “now” that we will not be subjected to the overwhelmingly “masculine” responses to the terrorist attacks.

    At the same time I remember Gary Condit, and the news and talk shows had been obsessed with disussing him for months on end, and suddenly the female talking heads were replaced by the males. I wonder why that is?

    It seemed to me that women were not in the dialogue, because they were saying that there weren’t enough of them in place as decision makers………

    Really appreicate your thoughts.

  9. northwestrain says:

    Checking in from the San Juan Islands. That Cartoon HITS home like no other on this day.

    Anyway we were peacefully minding our own business today –out for a sail and and damned Coast Guard gestapo boat sends a wake to our boat while cutting close in front of our boat. Then the bastards demanded to board our boat with their dirty combat boots — a “random safety check” say the chauvinists pigs of the homeland security. (Who won? the gestapo terrorists called homeland security, TSA and stupid coast guard who can’t use the radio worth a damn).

    Our boat has gone through an expensive survey — and passed with nothing to improve. Most if not all sailboats must have surveys to be insured — and insurance is more or less required by state & private marinas.

    These random “coast guard/homeland security/ ICE” searches are generally nasty and rude.

    I was not nice to the MCPs — especially after they wrecked my deck and asked if I could pilot my own boat. I had one jerk protesting that he was an American. (Yes I lectured the male chauvinist pigs — with the authority of a military brat.)

    What this “random” stop is — turns out to be a “show me your papers — bitch” stop. There is no other reason — and the mofos get to wreck our deck.

    So yes 9/11 has been used by the gestpo to let the homeland terrorists intimidate the citizens. And I am pissed.

    I grew up on secure military bases — and now the whole damn nation is now a gigantic military base. I feel like this country is now occupied by the enemy.