Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bullhorn Day

A day to read this: Casualties of the September 11 attacks. A demographic breakdown, not individual names.

It's 9/14/01. three days after the terrorist attacks. America is in shock. So is New York City & the metropolitan area. But New York isn't listening to the rest of America. & the rest of America isn't really listening to New York. Watching,  not listening.

The political face of New York is Mayor Rudy Giuliani. On 9/14 President Bush comes to town. He hasn't been  a factor so far in the post-attack consciousness of New Yorkers. He wasn't there on 9/11 & he wasn't leading. Giuliani was.  Giuliani has been bluntly honest about the scope of the destruction & the security measures put in place.

New Yorkers are confused & fearful. Will there be more attacks? They're also in motion. It's an international city comprised of an extraordinary variety of people, many of whom detest each other yet coexist peacefully for the most part. They're proud of this. It's what the hinterlands don't like about New York.  A tremendous amount of effort is directed from all over the city toward smoking Ground Zero. Already one can feel movement to begin healing this tremendous  rent in the fabric of of the city. The four outer boroughs & Manhattan above 14th Street are untouched. New York is not a city that can put up a "Closed" sign for more than few days.

There's anger, yes, & some anti-Muslim & anti-Arab attitudes. Most New Yorkers don't feel comfortable with this, at least not yet. Maybe time for that later, time for hate. For now, what you feel out of New York is mostly sadness, resolve,.  & compassion.

On 9/14 families of the missing are still posting & passing out "Have you seen?" fliers in an increasingly pathetic hope that loved ones may be unidentified in hospitals or traumatized into silence & hiding.  The workers in The Pit toil on, exhausted, determined,  frustrated. They know  the truth. They don't want to say the truth. They can't admit it yet & no one expects them to. Mostly dust & fragments. This isn't earthquake rubble. It's only  a matter of timing, how long before announcing the DNA experts are coming in.

Your son, daughter, wife, husband, father, mother, friend, are gone.

On 9/14/01 President Bush goes down into the pit & is handed a bullhorn.  Here is the transcript of that visit.
President Bush: Thank you all. I want you all to know -- it [bullhorn] can't go any louder -- I want you all to know that American today, American today is on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. The nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens

Rescue Worker: I can't hear you!

President Bush: I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people -- and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!

Rescue Workers: [Chanting] U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

President Bush: The nation -- The nation sends its love and compassion --

Rescue Worker: God bless America!

President Bush: -- to everybody who is here. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for makin' the nation proud, and may God bless America.

Rescue Workers: [Chanting] U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
No one remembers what President Bush said. He had nothing of consequence to say. Amazing if you think about it. What America heard was "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!"

Ground Zero workers did what one would expect them to do; vent patriotically.  But the President himself needed to take a more balanced tone. For the second time in four days he failed to establish his own leadership & voice,  gave the situation over to others.

We needed to step back & be calm. We needed to follow the conspiracy back to its roots & follow the funding of the conspiracy, which would have taken us beyond bin Laden & the Taliban. To where? We needed better intelligence & diligent international police work before we mobilized our armed forces for invasion.

On 9/14 the 9/11 attacks became not a global tragedy, & not local tragedies, & not even personal tragedies, but a collective national insult. It was too soon. We decided it was another Pearl Harbor before we certain who had attacked us.

On 9/14 the Bush administration began beating the war drums. Our leaders had the balls to ask young people to die by the thousands for America, in Afghanistan, which we expected,  & in Iraq by turning Saddam Hussein into  Saddam bin Laden,  but they lacked the courage to ask Americans to pay for it. In this President Obama is not that different from President Cheney Bush. The wars bankrupted us. Our financial institutions didn't give a shit; there were fabulous profits to be earned.

When we finally cornered bin Laden a decade later, we dealt with the man who had the answers to many of our questions by putting a bullet in his head.

America should have listened to New York City. All of New York City.

"Hate is too great a burden to bear," said Dr. King. Yet for a decade we have preferred a generalized hatred for Arabs (Saudis excepted), Muslims of all kinds, & a "War on Terror" (as if terror had one source we could conquer - Norway should teach us something about that), & the creation of a national security state  to reforming our financial institutions, repairing our infrastructure, developing a sound energy policy, & a thousand other challenges that would give us the kind of bright, hopeful future that would absorb any blows terrorists directed at us, & undermine their credibility & appeal around the world. The world can plainly see that we are becoming less & less of what we  claim to be.

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