Another anniversary of September 11 is passing, and it's time for America to marinate its collective consciousness in the perpetual re-enactment of the tragic events of 2001.
So, at this auspicious time, George W. Bush is out to tell America, again, why invading and occupying Iraq has been so necessary. He's telling us, for brand new reasons, why he has had no other choice but to slaughter the people he would liberate, and sacrifice the lives of the troops he tells us to support. Of course, he's telling us that this oxymoronic quest for peace through warfare is necessary because of the War Against Terror.
Ponder this inverse relationship: The less likely an American is to be the victim of a terrorist attack, the more likely that American is to feel vulnerable to terrorist attack, and to favor extremist policies in response to terrorist attacks.
Waiting in the Boise airport for a flight to Minneapolis, I sit across from a man who lives on a remote ranch a few miles outside a small town in the mountains in between Boise and Lewiston. He wears a bright necktie with the design of an angry bald eagle ripping through an American flag. "We've got to take out those sons of bitches before they can hit us again," he explains. While it is refreshing to hear someone from deep in Republican territory identifying with the people of Manhattan, I wonder how likely it is that foreign terrorists will ever even consider launching a strike in backwoods Idaho. Has Osama Bin Laden ever heard of Idaho?
Displays of support for militaristic vengeance such as the design found on this man's necktie are common in Idaho, but I've never seen anything of the sort in New York, even when I visited the financial district in Manhattan a few months after September 11, 2001. What I have seen in the American Express Building right across the street from Ground Zero are beautiful architectural models for new towers to be built on the site of the disaster. None of these models exhibit any symbolism of anger, vengeance, or militant patriotism. Unlike the people of Idaho, who were never attacked, New Yorkers appear to have moved beyond their initial anger and grief, and are busy planning a prosperous and peaceful future for their city instead.
Why would Idahoans show such anger, when they are not now, never have been, and almost certainly never will be vulnerable to an attack by foreign terrorists? Why are most New Yorkers not displaying such anger? Why are most New Yorkers strongly opposed to the militaristic responses to the tragedy of September 11 that have been the only substantial solution offered by the Bush Administration?
The only explanation we can come up with for this irregular geography of America's response to violent tragedy is that the extreme militaristic anger expressed by many Americans, (most dramatically by George W. Bush), was not born as a response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. That violent rage was already there before there was any external enemy towards which it could be directed. The attacks of Al Quaida did not provoke the wrath of this group of Americans. Those attacks merely released that wrath by providing it with an excuse for expression.
A further implication of this irregular distribution of anger is that the wars of George W. Bush are not really designed as a response to September 11, 2001, but rather, as an expression of an underlying fury that has long been present, suppressed deep within the minds of many Americans. The purpose of the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq was not to solve the problem of the threat of further terrorist attacks. Instead, the purpose of these wars was the satisfaction of a desire to wage war without regard to whether war is necessary or helpful.
This is the same rage that led neighbors to hack away the bodies of neighbors in Rwanda. This is the same rage that led the German people to support Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews. This is the same rage that led the Christian Crusaders to feast upon the flesh of their enemies in Palestine. This is the same rage that led to the invention and use of the atomic bomb by Americans.
It's the private business of individual Americans if they feel angry. However, to use the tragic loss of other Americans as an excuse to express that anger in a manner that costs the nation hundreds of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars is inexcusable.
The time has come for America to grow up and move beyond its infantile satisfaction with the release of its rage. The removal of a President obsessed with vengeance will be a necessary first step to our national maturation.
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