It’s been six long years since September 11th, 2001. In that time, Americans—and the world—hopefully have learned several important lessons.
All you need is duct tape and Saran Wrap. I know fighting terror is a hard thing to do. The guys at the top are fighting an enemy that is invisible, has no nationality or easily identifiable markings, and motivations ranging from religious cleansing to negotiating an export deal to crack the energy drink market in Riyadh.
And I also know that there was a time in our nation’s history in which it was possible to convince an entire population of schoolchildren that, in the event of a nuclear attack—not a conventional attack, with Russkies wielding Kalishnikovs around like sparklers on the Fourth of July—but a atmosphere-changing, create-a-hinterland, grade-A class one mushroom cloud explosion, the best course of action would be to hide under your freaking desk.
K. I understand all that. But, seriously, duct tape and plastic? Seriously. Why not just tell us to wrap ourselves in burlap and macramé and get in the fetal position every time a camel drops a nut? I hope we’re not paying these people in real money.
The check is in the mail? Nevermore! The legacy of 9/11 became the greatest scapegoat ever conceived for those unabashed enough to exploit it. Second quarter figures not up to par? “Due to the events of September 11th, the numbers just weren’t there.” Every fourth car on the assembly line has a major irreversible error? “Due to the events of September 11th, quality control has not been a priority.” Mortgage payment late? Don’t want to fly to Denver for your wife’s sister’s wedding? Want to invade a Middle Eastern nation with almost comically flimsy evidence? “Due to the events of September 11th…”
People believe some completely ridiculous things. Granted, this predates the terrorist attacks, but it certainly made a lot of conspiracy theories bubble to the surface. It’s not just about poet laureates inventing tales of wily Jews calling off work or incendiary bombs being stashed in ductwork to make the explosions bigger, it’s stuff people make up because they have no other explanation outside of what they hear from political pundits, talk radio, and Pierre Salinger. And everyone has an opinion, regardless of whether you are Senior Expert on Arab-Israeli Affairs at the University of Virginia, or a country western singer whose geopolitical public policy experience apex was reached when they sold out an arena in Burlington, Vermont. Expert metallurgist Rosie O’Donnell, of course, rightfully called it that steel doesn’t melt under any circumstances, regardless of the ferocity and copious amounts of airliner fuel involved, and professional gaydarist Jerry Falwell personally knew the sexual orientation of the pilots.
The terrorists took a community college course in web design while we were all sitting around thinking up new ways to blaspheme Islam. The terrorists—whether they’re looking for journalists to behead, contractors to torture, or make elaborately veiled threats from an unmarked cave somewhere in the mountains of (hey CIA—you paying attention?) western Pakistan, they’re pretty web savvy. Sure, it’s not slick and classy like Amazon or http://www.heavyhorselovin.com, but they do have just as much experience as the person who posted that video clip of the dog riding a skateboard, and that’s a pretty high threshold to beat.
The worst idea in the world is to make 9/11 a holiday. After 9/11, there was a small and rather vocal movement to have 9/11 declared a national holiday. Technically, it is a holiday, known as Patriot Day, in what I can only assume is a blatant slap in the face to the Dolphins, Jets, and Bills of the world. As long as it stays similar in scope as the normally subdued Pearl Harbor Day, I don’t think there will be a problem. But if gains the level of importance now placed on such holidays as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Patriot Day will simply become yet another holiday used to convert important parts of our history into another opportunity to buy shoes off at half price. Anyone who believes that in forty years you won’t see garish posters tastelessly claiming “The towers came down, and so will our prices!” hasn’t been paying attention for the past few centuries or so.
People have differing opinions. About everything. While the tragedy of 9/11 brought us all together, it wasn’t long until we learned that we differ violently in how we should be brought together. The battle lines are drawn pretty simply, actually. Either you think anyone with a foreign accent or making your change for the Hustler and lime slush you just bought walks home after work to find new and creative methods of desecrating the United States flag and developing ways to infringe your God-given rights to discharge a gun, drive a pickup truck, or smoke; or, you think George Bush and Dick Cheney drink barrels of crude oil for breakfast and the US Armed Forces unnecessarily broke up the world’s biggest tea and crumpet party held in the candy cane fields of greater Arabia. One this is agreed by both of these factions, though: anyone who doesn’t fall into these categories is a terrorist.