Eight years gone and each of us old enough to have apprehended the day will remember to the tiniest detail where we were and what we were doing. A massive wave of cross-continental empathy broke over the country; I remember, for the first time, giving a hoot what New Yorkers were up to. It’s rare America speaks with one voice, but that was a rare moment indeed. Has it only been eight years? Seems like decades.
In the intervening years, our public discourse has soured. It is acceptable in polite company to suggest the President of the United States intends to kill your grandmother, or to accuse him of lying during a joint session of Congress. Loaded vocabulary once relegated to Birchers, like “one-world-government“, “state sovereignty” and “socialist takeover,” find homes in the mouths of bona fide leaders.
Left-wing activists distribute posters of the President with a toothbrush mustache, think shouting people down constitutes winning an argument and throw the epithet nazi around like a hackey sack. Many people in informal settings, express doubt about the 9/11 Commission’s findings.
It’s clear that our institutional press no longer function in any consistent way, other than to provide the latest celebrity news and political press releases. Moreover, real questions about what is, and what is not, actually occurring are discounted and mocked. Plain speech is regarded as stupidity, and sincere, well-put questions about those in authority get dismissed as “conspiracy theories.”
The result–old people want the government to keep its filthy hands out of medicare, working people side with major corporations against their own interests, and nobody cares enough to wave their pitchforks at the bankers.
This behavior, and the legitimately felt anger animating it stems from a real disconnect between what we’re told, what we see, and how that dichotomy is handled in the culture at-large. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the one between the official story and the one before our eyes is filled by folks who offer dark tales of bad-guys with big plans.
Perhaps, in this dysfunctional information environment the true conspiracies are out in the open and are too big and horrible to be believed, and get ignored because they are inconceivable–that, for instance, partners of major banks and investment firms, appointed to high office, borrowed trillions of dollars on behalf of the U.S. Treasury from China to cover the blown bets of their banks to private creditors. With the approval of the President. And the Congress. And the acquiescence of the citizenry. In a world like this, 9/11 conspiracies, the existence of big-foot and flying saucers seem perfectly reasonable.
I intend to mark this anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy by refusing to countenance patent absurdities, if they are demonstrated to be such, and instead pledge to focus on seeing things as they are; i.e., with regard to public discourse, not to mistake gold for fool’s gold. As 9/11 instructs, reality is horrible enough without making stuff up. Let’s play nice, call things by their names, and avoid spending time ruminating bad things that could be, instead of ignoring the nightmares that are.