Sep 12, 2006

9/11 Reflections, Part Three

After those last two reflections of 9/11, I guess the question is, "Where does that leave us now?" How has America changed since that day - or has it? This is just my opinion. And I know that expressing opinions about politics and religion will get you into trouble faster than just about anything else. However, this is nothing more than me expressing my views as an American. I don't claim this is researched or documented or surveyed. This is what I see in my daily life. If you don't agree, that's fine. If you agree, that's fine. If you think I'm an idiot, join the club.

Personally, I do believe that America has changed a great deal since 2001. First of all, it is a more scared place. Americans are more worried now about their safety than probably at any time in the last 100 years. True, some of this is fed by the media playing up EVERY LITTLE THING. And it is also compounded by the government's jittery chihuahua impersonation. Whatever the causes, I think that we as a country have lost that invincible swagger that defined us. Sure, you still see those patriotic "them's are fightin' words" bumper stickers. But most of the time those come off as overcompensation.

Added to this, America is a reactionary country now. It used to be that we were the trailblazers. We did something and everyone else followed, got run over, or got made fun of. Now, we are always on the defensive - responding to threats real and imagined. Take the whole airline situation. Every time a would-be terrorist tries something new, the government institutes sweeping policy changes that hurts everyone. Like the whole liquid on a plane thing. I can understand we need to be more careful about carry-on items. But that policy was put into place overnight. And the security personnel didn't even know how to handle it. So they are dumping a bunch of liquids into the same container - the very action that would have ignited the same binary liquid explosives they were trying to avoid. The government seems so worried about terrorists destroying planes that they have ignored the real problem in air travel -- the ridiculous new standards being levied on air traffic controllers. They have cut positions, increased shift time, and generally made air travel 10 times more dangerous. It was no mere coincidence that the plane crash in Kentucky happened right after this policy took place. As the research comes out, that wreck was caused by a tired traffic controller, old information, and about a dozen people dropping the ball. Basically, we have reacted so strongly to a threat from abroad that we ignored the threats from general safety mediocrity.

That last paragraph will highlight two other things about America. First, it is more cynical than ever. Second, it is more divided. I mention the first because I just ripped into the government because I am fairly certain that they are consistently making bad calls - and I am not so sure anyone else would do a better job. It isn't like I'm sitting here saying that Bush is bad or whatever. I am saying that ALL OF THEM are going to make big stupid mistakes - just in different areas. The cynicism sets in because we all think the government is up to something, hiding something, lying about something, doctoring something, torturing something, and spinning something. This has been fed by the whole "war on terror." I don't know many people who think that this war has been handled 100% right - and I don't see anyone out there who could ever fix it without screwing something else up.

The division in America is highlighted by the fact that anyone reading those last two paragraphs will form an opinion about me from them. If they agree with that opinion, they'll get all happy. If not, they'll get all angry. And the breakdown of angry and happy is probably 51/49. That's what almost every issue comes down to now. Which means that at any given time, half of the nation is ticked off about something. The unity after 9/11 is long gone. And in its place, the partisan politics of pre-2001 has only gotten worse. It is like the two sides are angry that they even had to work together for a year or so - and now they are going to be as difficult as possible.

I think America is worse of racially as well. Maybe white/black issues are not as bad - I guess your opinion on that depends on which media outlet you use and which films you watch. But there is now this lingering distrust of Middle Easterners and Muslims. You may see some people trying to act like that isn't true. But to see how true it is, just look at the fact that all CBS had to do to get huge press coverage for 2005's Big Brother was to put ONE Muslim in the house. You should have seen how people were around him. One girl even tried to vote him out first week BECAUSE he was Muslim. The government itself even tries to act like there isn't something going on in the way they randomly screen at the airport. "We don't want to look like racial profilers, so we'll pat down this 89 year old from Des Moines too."

Economically, thanks largely to the gas prices and home price escalation, things are harder for a lot of Americans. I know that the gas itself has hurt us horribly - we traded in our van about a month ago for a new minivan. With how much we are saving on gas, we are only putting out about $100 a month on the payment! But the trickle down from the gas stuff affects power bills, food costs, air travel costs, just about everything.

I honestly don't think that the terrorists knew all of this would happen - just like they never realized the towers themselves would collapse. The complete destruction of the towers was just icing on the cake - just like the long term damage to the country as a whole is just an added benefit. Do I attribute all of those above things to 9/11? No. Much of that would have happened anyway at some point - 9/11 just sped up the process. But there certainly was a chain of events that came into place. I do love this country, and I hope that things can straighten themselves out. I don't really see some magic election that will help everything be okay again - in fact 2008 scares the weewee out of me me (Cynicism alert). But I still have hope. I'm not sure what we are supposed to do at times like this. I guess it is a time to look back, honor those who perished, and then take stock and see what we can do to make things better. That last part is the hard one. Honestly, I don't know. I don't think anyone around here has the answer. Makes you really want to hold on to the fact that God controls kings and princes, that he appoints governments, and that he is not bullied by terrorist or ravaged by time. That is where our hope has to come from. Seems like a pretty unsatisfying conclusion - but honestly that is where we are right now. I hope the 10 year anniversary will be different.

Wasn't THAT a cheery post. Don't worry - I'll get back to random weirdness soon. In fact, my next post will be a socio-economic and cultural breakdown of Disney's Aladdin movies. I bet you are wondering if I'm joking...(cynic)

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