Monday, September 12, 2011

an unpopular position

I did not read or listen to any 9/11 posts or broadcasts. Well, except for one. I did read this one, The Decade Of Magical Thinking, and it sums up some of my feelings, although more nicely than I would have.

9/11 was a tragic day, and I don't intend to demean anyone's sorrow who lost someone they loved, but it was not the defining moment of my life and it should not have been a defining moment in the life of this nation. Or if so, it should have been a far different eye opener, a far different lesson than what this nation took from it.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed by the acts of a few.

Our national response once the shock wore off was not to have a dialog, a soul search, to understand how and why this happened, how our country's foreign policies could have engendered this response from a radical element.

No, our national response was to invade two countries and be directly responsible for the deaths of more than a hundred thousand innocent people. Because if those 2,977 people killed in the attack on the twin towers and the pentagon were innocent victims, then innocent too were the hundred thousand that We killed in retaliation.

In response, We sent another nearly 4,500 soldiers to their deaths and seriously maimed another 32,000. We engaged in torture.

In response, We willingly gave up some of our rights and freedoms under the guise of safety when we are no more or less safe than before but we are certainly less free. In actuality our acts of revenge increased the incidences of terrorism worldwide for many years.

Those of us who disagreed were charged with being unpatriotic, un-American. We were accused of not supporting the troops when in fact we did not want them in harm's way to begin with. We wanted our nation to act in a better way and were reviled for it.

I keep hearing the word 'sacred' applied to the site of 9/11 and I find it profane to use that term. We cry and beat our chests over the unprovoked attack, We claim moral superiority when, in fact, our government policies, policies that the people of this country supported, had been using and abusing the middle east for decades. We have set up and supported dictators who abused their populations in exchange for the right to go in and pillage their natural resources all the while sneering at the uneducated and disenfranchised third world populations. And when some part of them finally started fighting back the only way they could We cried foul when We have no moral high ground to stand on.

To claim that the American people are innocent of the travesties of our national policies is to deny the democracy in which we are supposed to live. We, the people, vote for and put into office the congressmen that make our laws and determine our national policies. In that sense, we, each of us, is responsible for the actions of our government. We are not a population that is at the mercy of a dictator or dictatorial institution. We said yes. And now, 10 years later, We continue to deny our own complicity because We surely have not changed any of our policies.

How different could the present be if We, as a nation, had raised up those populations instead of raising up dictators, if We had shared the bounty of their oil instead of taking it all for ourselves? The national tragedy is not that the twin towers fell and that nearly 3,000 people died at the hands of terrorists. The individuals that died that day were not the first Americans to die at the hands of terrorists, nor the last and yet those others are never remembered.

The national tragedy is that We learned nothing from the experience. We did not learn that national behavior comes with consequences. We did not learn that We cannot bomb thousands of innocents, We cannot set up dictators for our financial gain, We cannot set out to assassinate the political leaders of other countries with impunity and We certainly cannot claim the high moral ground. What goes around,comes around.

So revile me if you must, but I think We failed the test.

And yes, I know that as individuals We have within us some powerfully aware and compassionate beings but this is about the collective soul of this nation and judging from the last 10 years there are not enough.

Obviously, not enough.

edit: I must amend some of what I wrote. Several commenters have pointed out that while we try to elect people who seem to represent us, once in office, they represent only those of wealth and power and forget their promises to the rest of us who voted for them. So in that way, we, the individuals, aren't responsible for what our government does. But on the other hand, there are no massive demonstrations against what they do either.


  1. Well done Ellen - a brave and frankly honest post.

  2. It is too bad the power of words can't prevent violence around our world.We need to give peace a chance.

  3. You said it better than I did and I agree with you completely.

  4. I don't know why you would title this "an unpopular position" when I am sure there are plenty of people that agree with you.

    You said it very well. I just wish these dang wars wound end. It doesn't seem to matter who we, as responsible citizens, vote into office - once there the political agenda takes over and they forget what they promised. And that goes for just about every administration and Congress since I was able to vote.

    At least you didn't say that the government created the disaster on 9/11 in order to have a reason to invade to get oil. Although that does seem to be a pretty popular [conspiracy] theory.

  5. Interesting post, well said. I found this link to be interesting reading:

    After the Bush-1 administration involved us in the Iraq/Kuwait situation as well as the Iraq/Iran situation, and got cozy with the Saudi govt. our troops on what Bin Laden felt was sacred ground of Saudi Arabia was fuel for his fury. Nevertheless, he was a fanatic looking for a cause. These "tit for tat" situations continue back through history as long as we continue to look at cause and effect. The cycle is hard to break.

  6. Of course I agree with you Ellen, but what gets me is how so many people agree with what you say here but do nothing to change things, self included. At least you and a few others took the time to take a stand and say enough.
    Thank you for that!

  7. right on Ellen! I couldn't agree more! We the people did protest loudly to no avail against Bush's agenda- then silenced with the patriotic crap and threats from the inside, phone taps and "report any suspicious behavior in your neighborhood", taking advantage of fear and shock and confusion. Our "leaders" - so evil!
    I get that you think this view point of yours might be unpopular- you live in a very conservative state- but I don't know any one who would not agree with you. We are horrified and seeking a way out of the country because of the deadly virus of power.American people for the most part are like any others- mostly well meaning but leaders are a different sort of mutant- NPD in the extreme! Well said, Ellen- you are not alone!!!

  8. Ellen,

    As I recall, I first "met" you on Nancy's blog, where I responded to a comment you made on her 9/11 post a few years ago. We exchanged a few words, then respectfully agreed to disagree.

    I admired then your willingness to voice an unpopular opinion and stand behind it, and I still do. I also still respectfully disagree with you, but that probably comes as no surprise.

    But I do understand where you're coming from, and you are right that we must accept the consequences of our government's actions. But accepting the consequences is different from accepting responsibility, and where I disagree is in your assertion that we are responsible for our government's actions - because "we" don't really have a choice in who we elect. We get to choose between two candidates, neither of whom represent our views in any meaningful way, and both of whom are owned and operated by large corporations with deep pockets. "We" didn't choose the policies that got us into this mess, our corporate-owned politcal system did. I know a guy whose son died in the north tower, and I dare you to tell him that his vote was in any way responsible for his son's death. You'll be down on your knees picking up your teeth in two seconds flat (he's an ex-Marine, and can still kick my ass even at the age of 74).

    That said, if you ran for office I'd vote for you, Ellen. I think you have the right idea, and I do agree with much of what you've said here. Unfortunately I'd never get the chance to vote for you, because you'd have to sell out to the Big Money just to buy enough support to get on the ballot - and then you wouldn't be representing me anymore, you'd be one of "them". It's a vicious cycle.

  9. I have added a small edit to the bottom of my post.

  10. I am going to throw your question to me back at you. How do we change the direction the county has been and is going? I couldn't agree with "The Decade of Magical Thinking" and your post more.

  11. Bravo, Ellen. It takes courage to speak up like this and you have!

  12. while i don't pretend to be politically, religiously or current-even savvy, i do appreciate hearing your viewpoint. i do appreciate it.

  13. It was a bad day for sure and without a doubt we should remember those who suffered but I think if we let it affect our lives to much then the people who did the terrible deed have been successful. The world has already been disrupted enough by these people.

  14. One of the best pieces I have read anywhere in a long time, Ellen. Thanks for having the courage to put this up. I agree with you whole-heartedly (as a displaced CA liberal). You should look at Truthdig and read Chris Hedges' take on the 9/11 observances. Chilling. I will be back again soon! EFH

  15. No, I will not revile you. An American needed to say this, it's no good if a foreigner says it.

  16. Here, here. Very frustrating to have an actual dialogue about
    9/11. I don't really care to focus on the anniversary of that day. It was tragic. Why would I want to relive it over and over again? I agree with your statement about how it represents the day we started giving away our freedoms. So true. And I definitely don't feel like memorializing that.

  17. Well said,

    I don't blame Bin Laden for Sept.11 anymore than I blame the Japanese for Dec. 7......

    I'm pretty upset about the Patriot Act though.

  18. I agree with much of what you say here, Ellen and, like others, commend the simple courage of stating your views forcefully, clearly and on this day. Still, as someone who grew up and came of age in the shadows of the Twin Towers, there is someone in me that needs the rite of mourning, although preferably without the bromides and clichés about the sacred, the heroic and the like. Part of our problem is this general cultural penchant we seem to have for viewing everything as a clash between good and evil, heroes and villains, them against us. When younger, the immense injustice and crimes I saw around me (Vietnam, Jim Crow/KKK, Pinochet ....) enraged me and I looked for culprits (and many there were). But that was still part of the 'them vs us' mindset, and I lashed out politically and in other ways against 'them'. Now, as the years have passed, and as I tend to see humanity as a whole, that anger has largely given way to sorrow, the need to hit back at 'them' has ripened (and perhaps begun to rot) into a despair about what we the human family are forever doing to ourselves.

    I guess I am trotting out my own share of clichés and pop philosophy slogans here, but the point I wanted to make is that by truly seeing and feeling all humanity as a family, we can both earnestly, reverentially and unapologetically mourn the victims of the countless long and slow atrocities that we unleash on each other, while at the same time critiquing the role that WE ALL play in bringing such pain and suffering down upon our own heads, on our brothers and sisters, sons and daugthers. Less hero vs villain; more soul- and conscience-searching, less self-righteousness (if as has been said, "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels", I wonder who dwells in the halls of self-righteousness?)

    Well, I guess I am starting to sermonize here, something I don't like, but I was moved by your gesture of writing this post on this painful anniversary. Thank you.

  19. Ellen, your piece expresses what I have felt too. It is very well written and spot on.

    What would happen, indeed, if we considered ourselves one human organism, without separation or border? I am capable of every good and every evil that is perpetrated.

  20. Ellen- Very brave post. And precisely why the world needs more artists! I was sickened by all the coverage of 9/11. Sure I watched some of it when I turned on the TV Sunday morning and listened to the President and others speak. But afterwards, I could look no longer.

    My husband and I went out Saturday evening (9/10) and when we arrived home later that night we found our children glued to the TV, watching the horror and chaos--this was really their first exposure to the events of 9/11. They were both crying. At 12 and 14 they are old enough to understand, and smart enough to ask: Why? Why did the terrorists attack us? Why did we get into a war? How can we prevent this from happening again? They are young enough to understand that violence begets violence.

    I wish our nation had responded like my children did. Instead, after 9/11, all I heard was: Let's bomb the crap out of them!

    We've a long, long way to go. I pray that our next generation will help get us there.

  21. Hi there - a splendid and brave post - well done.

    One people conflate national interest, revenge, religion, self interest and economics into one policy there is never going to be a good outcome for the people on the ground.

    The debate (if you can call it that) in Australia is not much better - as soon as you say that you think we should not be at war, people roll out the "not supporting the troops" line. At that point any change of conversation ends.
    But I keep trying!

    Stewart M - Australia

  22. Hi Ellen, great post. Also a super-great piece from Rumpus which I hadn't heard of til now.

    I wonder if it is just us liberals who feel this way.

  23. Oh certainly not an unpopular position at all.. but a very well expressed one.


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