Recently, while watching a borrowed tape of Six Feet Under, I ran across a 15-minute segment from an HBO special presentation on Sept. 11, sandwiched between two episodes. I had sworn to myself that I would never watch those buildings fall again, that I have seen those images enough to last me a lifetime, and that I would no longer let the media play off of my gut emotions about such a tragedy. But of course, I couldn’t turn it off. Before I knew it, my cheeks were cold with tears and I felt sick to my stomach once again. The film showed a close-up clip of a man in suit and tie jumping 80 stories to his death, and I wanted to vomit.
Then those old, guilty feelings slunk in and made me feel ashamed –because I wasn’t sad for the “right” reasons. I cried for all of the love lost on that day, and I cried because I’m relieved that one of my dearest friends had resigned from his job on the 88th floor of Tower Two in July of 2001, and I cried because I think our holistic heartbreak has been exploited to get our government exactly where they want to be — to get us exactly where they want us.
But mostly, I cry because I feel a deep sense of shame for believing what I do about that day: that it was a long-overdue wake-up call for this self-combusting society that we call home, that everyone in this country needed their patriotic arrogance put in check, and that I firmly believe that that fateful morning was George W. Bush’s wet dream of a chance to prove himself to Daddy and settle an old family score.
I’m scared because I think this is not the last tragedy that will befall us, and that similar attacks will happen — again and again and again — until enough people wake up and realize that we’ve failed, that we’re doing it all wrong, and that unless we start backpedaling fast and furiously, we don’t have a f**king chance.
Those public officials who could actually bring some sense to this whole mess are afraid of speaking out, for fear of what might happen to their jobs and to their credibility — and rightly so. Censorship is very much alive today … look at what happened to Bill Maher. I, for one, happen to agree with what he said.
With the triangle of president, House and Senate dominated by one party, it is farcical to imagine that the interests of all are being considered as huge decisions, with massive ramifications, are made. That responsibility now falls to us common folk. Will someone please stand up and DEMAND that what’s right must be done? And will someone please listen?
There are several things my logic dictates that make it hard to hold onto any hope:
1) We are no longer a democratic society, so action other than voting will be crucial to change. I am not suggesting more violence; “an eye for an eye” is a fatally flawed system. But our government is doing whatever it sees fit — with no system of checks and balances, and no room for its constituents’ input.
2) These types of changes require numbers that are hard to rally — especially when a majority of the population is apathetic, oblivious or hopeless.
3) The people who constitute those numbers must be willing to risk life and limb for what has to be done; and the plain fact is that we, as a people, have forgotten what it means to have that kind of strength of conviction and belief — the kind that would enable us to do whatever is necessary to orchestrate such a shift. Plainly put, we are much too concerned about ourselves as individuals to see that sacrifice may have to be made for the greater good. Consider the civil rights movement of the ’60s: It would never have succeeded without the dedication and resilience of people like you and me and our next-door neighbors.
This government is no longer of us, by us or for us — and if we don’t follow closely and safeguard our constitutional rights, we will one day pass a point where it is just too late to ask questions and demand answers. We will be under one large, greasy thumb, and Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden will suddenly seem to be very low on our list of worry priorities. Only then will someone say, “Why didn’t we see this coming?” And someone else will stand up and answer, with a sigh: “Why didn’t you care enough to pay attention? Why didn’t you open your eyes and look around?”
I struggle every day with the fact that I am made to feel unpatriotic and un-American because I think we’re being led into a senseless war by a man who stole the presidency. Because I feel betrayed by the system that gets one-third of my hard-earned money. Every time I turn on the TV, my intelligence is insulted by poorly disguised propaganda. My thoughts and desires are no longer being taken into consideration — not at the local level, not at the state level, and most certainly not at the national level. My vote no longer counts.
If you, like me, feel squeamish about voicing what rings true in your own heart and mind for fear of being branded a traitor or a supporter of terror, then perhaps we should take a long, hard look at the state of our fair nation. Because when the day comes that we’re too scared to stand up and speak our piece, it’s already too late!
The forefathers of our country had the courage to stand up to tyranny in order to forge a new and great way of life, but it didn’t come without a price. The battle wasn’t easily won, and many perished in the struggle. By complacently watching as our civil rights and privacy are taken away with complete disregard to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we are, in effect, thumbing our noses at the hard work and sacrifice those long-dead men put forth.
But we still have free will, and we still have our hearts to lead us; we don’t have to stand for it. We DON’T have to stand for it. This is our country! We have all suffered and mourned for last year’s loss of life, but life goes on. And it’s our job to make sure that the quality of that life is not further diminished.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I meditate on this statement every day when I wake up and turn on the news. And every day, I become more convinced that we may all be lost.