A boy born on Tuesday September 11th 2001 would have had his Bar Mitzvah now. That boy would have began to be held culpable for his decisions and been taught how to survive as an adult in this world. It’s time that we grew up from the scared, paranoid children we became that day.
There is a scene from “The Siege,” the 1998 film, starring Denzel Washington about a wave of bombings that hit New York. Washington’s character is sitting at a security briefing when a phone rings. Then a beeper goes off; then another cellphone then another. The rising pitch of the score let the audience know that something was up. There was a terrorist attack in progress.This movie sums up my 9/11 experience several times over.
During my “where was I when” moment, I was crossing the quad at Towson University. Less than a week into my college career, I was not yet 18. A friend told me some vague account of a plane hitting the WTC and another hitting THE Pentagon. I looked up and all around me, every one was on their cellphone. Thirteen years ago, before obsessive smartphone attachment became the norm, it was quite unnerving. I sprinted to the student union, to the large-screen television there, just in time to see the growing plume of dust that would cover the country for the coming decade; maybe more.
I became obsessed with “The Siege.” Many of its events seemed prophetic in 9/11’s wake. The paranoia, the fear, the depression, the crackdown on personal liberties played out before my eyes just as scripted. The only difference, was that it ended. The climax of the film sees a standoff between the FBI and the final terrorist cell. The good guys win the war is over. The Army General who overstepped his authority is punished, roll credits.
Back in reality, the war never ended; not after the Taliban fell, not after Al Qaeda was dismantled; not after Saddam hung from the gallows; or when Bin Laden had his eye unceremoniously replaced with a bullet after nearly a decade on the run.
I had hoped that the war would see a drawdown after the end of the same Bush administration that had seen its inception. But President Obama pulled the troops from one front and put them in another. Targeted killings and drone strikes increased in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and now it seems all but certain that we are about to write the next chapter in the Iraq war trilogy.
Our various law enforcement agencies were given unimaginable powers, justified by the continuing threat of domestic agents. These powers have not been given back. The power that they wield has only found new targets in lieu of the previously stated ones. Laws written post 9/11 to combat terrorism are being used to crackdown on minor drug offenses. I don’t think that this is the vision any of us had in the waning months of 2001.
We have all been subject to the increased scrutiny of the TSA blue shirts. I have yet to see any evidence that their increasingly invasive and humiliation searches have made us any safer.
How many flags must we see draped over the coffins of our sons and daughters? How many Americans must suffer the indignity of losing their freedoms under the banner of a war meant to protect those freedoms?
It’s forgivable and understandable that our collective post-traumatic stress would have had more staying power than any other national tragedy, but part of being adults is mediating your emotional state with your rational understanding of what is best for you.We have long ago exceeded any rational mourning period for the thousands who are no longer with us. It’s harsh when you have to end the mourning period. After shiva (the seven-day Jewish mourning period) eventually one has to stand up. One has to go back to work. One has to move on with his or her life. It’s not easy, but it’s what is done.
I am in no way advocating that we forget the ones we lost, forgive those responsible, or ever ignore the ever-present threat of terrorism. However that obsession doesn’t need to play a central role in our lives.
No healthy person defines their identity by their worst tragedy. Jews no longer define themselves by the holocaust. It is an inextricable part of our makeup, but we are much more than that. It’s time for the post 9/11 mentality to give way to the post-post 9/11 world.