On this day, millions of us are suffering through an onslaught of emotions as we remember where we were and what we were doing five years ago. Personally, I was witnessing the destruction of the World Trade Center with a telephoto lens, standing on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike, with strangers as my companions. A priest was standing with a rabbi nearby and they were both praying.
A few days later, I went into the city with my camera to document the aftermath of what had happened. The streets smelled of pulverized concrete. Acrid. Handmade posters were everywhere, as were media vans and trucks overflowing with supplies and volunteers headed to the disaster site. Vigils in places like Washington Square Park and Union Square brought hundreds, some mourning, some curious. You could walk through the streets of New York without looking over your shoulder to see if you were being followed. You were, but they were going to the same place as you: some place they could make sense of this new world.
This September 11, I am angry. Last night, to prepare her for the assembly and outpouring of patriotism that would inevitably be waiting for her at school today, I had to explain to my seven-year-old daughter about September 11 and war. She listened as I pointed out pictures of the twin towers and other notable sights in a LIFE book about the aftermath of the attack. She asked questions. “But why did people want to fly planes into buildings?” “Why do people want to make war?” I showed her a picture of President Bush and said, “I don’t know, but it’s his fault.”
I’m angry today because Bush is conspicuously making the rounds making speeches he did not write and public please for solidarity and pride. He’s busy playing politics to save his party’s reputation while it is us, the American people who suffer from his own bravado and poor decision-making skills. He stands in his pulpit saying, yes, I knew the CIA had been holding al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons for years and it was probably illegal, just like the tribunals I’m sending them to face, but don’t worry because now that I think it will make my party look good, I’m going to push to make what I did legal. And the press just nods its head.
He says, hey, I know a federal judge ruled that my wiretapping program was illegal, but I want to expand its reach and that’s alright because I’m the president and I say so. Oh, and yes, I knew that intelligence showed that there was no connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq, but we’re there now anyway and we will win this war on terror, even though we’re not really fighting the terrorists. And the press just nods its head. Good show, President.
I am angry because I live in a country where this type of public lying is condoned and inaction is what reigns because of the fear of upsetting political ties within one party or another. I am angry because of the tens of thousands of troops that were sent to far of places we have no business in to come home maimed or in pine boxed. I am angry that my government has done nothing to ensure the safety of its people by heeding the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, the body it convened to find out what happened five years ago and what can be done to prevent it in the future.
I’m angry because today, I am less safe than I was in 2001, and again this morning, I had to try to explain to my daughter why two of her uncles have to fight in a war where they have to kill people and face the threat of being killed themselves. My best answer to her is that I don’t understand it either. It seems pretty obvious to me: violence only makes more violence and no one gets what they want in the end; revenge is a concept that lives in a vicious circle of illogical that again, serves no purpose as everyone loses; and religion ends up being a poor excuse to hurt other people rather than the personal strength it was meant to be.
Why do we continue to live in a country where the political system lets down the people it serves every day? Why don’t we stand up and say that Bush is not functional as a leader and he needs to be replaced? Oh, and by the way, can we have more of a choice for leadership than a Democrat or a Republican? Sure in theory anyone can run for president, but the reality is that the system as it stands, is a two-party system that is so afraid of losing power that it shuts everyone else out. Ask Ross Perot, the Independent who was bullied out of the race twice.
What we need is new vision and new leadership. Someone who sees that what has been done in the past is not working. Someone who sees that we need to concentrate on what’s going on in our country before we worry about anyone else. Someone who sees that the larger issue than politics and money is living on a planet that’s about to get very inhospitable and instead of looking to preserve the future of big oil, looks to develop REALISTIC alternative fuel sources. Someone who has the courage to say major changes need to be made in how we do things in America.
The American people are the only ones who can make this happen, and it’s about time we started speaking up. Otherwise, we have only ourselves to blame for our fate.Powered by Sidelines