note, this is an edited stream of consciouness, comments appreciated but please be kind.
Today I am sad for the 2,977 victims of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. But I am not just sad for them. I am even sad for the families of the perpetrators of this crime. While their loved ones undoubtedly committed one of the most evil acts in history spurred by an almost inconceivable level of hatred, each one of them was a mother’s son, and I grieve for their pain too. But my sadness extends beyond the immediate victims and their next of kin. 9/11 was not just an attack on America, it was an on the liberal democratic world and enlightened modernity in general. It was devastatingly successful.
Killing Americans was not the goal of the 9/11 perpetrators (lets not repeat their names anymore). It was the means to a much larger goal of killing America and all that America stood for up until 2001: enlightened modernity.
In retrospect, the thread of events seems so clear. The perps draw America into a quagmire in Afghanistan. The US oversteps and gives the perps a huge gift by overextending its forces with a completely unnecessary war in Iraq, ensuring that both conflicts become unwinnable, decades long quagmires. The war in Iraq is the first time that the US engages in war with nearly half of the country strongly opposed, right from the outset. Even Vietnam was initially popular. This is the first cell in the American organism that turns cancerous. Even the division stoked by the Clinton impeachment and Bush v. Gore was nothing by comparison.
To pay for these massive military adventures, the US reverts from a budgetary surplus (remember that?) to profligate deficit spending. To hide the economic pain this should have inflicted on the voting public, a conspiracy of fools is erected between banks and regulators to massively increase consumer access to credit, no matter their ability to pay or understand the risk. This spreads across the developed world as politicians try to buy off consumer sentiment.
The hyper leveraged financial state of the US collapses much as a house of cards in the slightest breeze. The inconceivable becomes the immediate as one institution after another begins to collapse. Bailouts are hastily arranged. The people in the room follow their human instinct and bail out their peers. One can even assign a generous interpretation that they believed that bailing out the system was the only way to save the country and the world. Individuals consumers will have to adapt.
Individual consumers adapt. They don’t adapt the way established powers wanted or expected. Distrust of the government becomes immediate. The cancerous division that began with the Iraq war turns malignant as both sides get ugly. The Tea Party, Birtherism, Trumpism grow. American’s forget everything they learned in civics classes as our bloodless civil war becomes the priority. Identifying friend or foe takes priority of unity and problem solving. Lines in the sand are drawn, they are crossed, and the responses are immediate and unquestioning.
The instability stoked by America’s voluntary wars begets new conflicts. Syria, Lebanon. Refugees start coming a shore. Populations strained by years of financial crises scoff at sharing the pie with newcomers. Younger people are horrified at their country’s treatment of refugees. European divisions grow inexorably. Brexit. Far right parties. Us vs them, ingroup vs outgroup. Europe falls.
The US is no longer a shining city on a hill. “Make America Great Again” becomes the new slogan of those who willfully disregard and destroy so much of what made America great. Distrust reigns. Anti-Vaxxers somehow rally against the biggest life saving invention of human history. The opponents of the administration begin finding enemies in every corner. Every statement becomes a purity test. Much like the oroborus eating its tail, once real enemies are hard to find, imaginary enemies are created in groups of friends. Purity tests must get stricter because if everybody “passes” they lose their power. Masks become a political statement. Looting becomes an acceptable act of aggression against the abstract other.
The perps dealt modernity a devastating blow. Devastating, but not fatal. We will recover. Modernity is unique in that it has an immune system. It reacts. It learns. It adapts. America will recover. It will be painful. Like a patient who’s immune system finally adapts to a pathogen, it takes time to recover. It will hurt. Lives will be impacted and lives will be lost as progress slows and falls back into regression in some areas. But, we will recover. The modern world is incomparably more tolerant and accepting of pluralism at any point in human history. While 2020 represents some regression from past highs, the long term trend is unarguable. We will recover.
Fuck the perpetrators and their ideological descendants who think they can hold the world back.
Fuck those stoking division unwittingly doing the work of those perpetrators.
You’re on the wrong side of history. You are always welcome back on the right side.
Metaphorically speaking, as an avowed atheist: may god continue to bless America and the entire human race.