As I wait at work, waiting to hear from my brother who missed a flight waiting in line at security, I think about today as anniversary, and irony. I remember well where I was 9/11/01, working in the Cathedral of Learning on the 30th floor. Our receptionist told us (me) a plane had crashed near by, and that something seemed to be going on in New York. I was skeptical about all that, but I tried the New York Times website and found it wasn’t loading (which rarely seemed to happen, even in those days). People grew panicky as we realized what had happened. Would the cathedral be the next target, a tall building standing alone in Oakland? No one said, but I assume several people were thinking of Pitt’s considerable foreign student population. Around noon we got word from Nordenberg’ office that we should go home. I waited until most people were off the floor to leave, not willing to trust the Cathedral’s notoriously unreliable elevators would handle one more person crowding on. I bicycled home through the traffic, proving to myself once again the wisdom of that choice of transportation.
But here we are, eight years later, still involved in two wars that were started because of that event, or at least that is what we are told. And just recently, Van Jones, the President’s green jobs advisor (or czar, as some people like to say), resigned in part because it was revealed he was one of the people who signed a petition that called for an investigation into whether the government deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen so it could have an excuse to go to war in Afghanistan and/or Iraq.
Now I have mentioned before and elsewhere that I remember Paul O’Neill had divulged in his book (The Price of Loyalty, I think) that there had been memos in early 2001 talking about a post-Saddam Iraq. By itself that’s not a smoking gun, but it ought to be strong enough evidence to support a call for an investigation. And O’Neill was saying this in 2004, when this petition came out. The petition Jones signed publically was actually circulated to a weird variety of 100 prominent Americans, such as Ed Asner and various types of professors and businessmen. The names have been posted on a website since, for all to see. And apparently Jones has since decided maybe he doesn’t agree with the idea that the Bush administration might have deliberately not acted when it learned of the possible terrorist danger. But when Glenn Beck started foaming at the mouth about this and other things Jones has done (like deciding he was a communist for a while), Jones resigned rather than be a distraction for the Obama administration.
An African American resigns from the administration of the first African American President in part because he called for an impartial investigation into the actions of the government before the terrorists attacks of 9/11. He resigns because calling for this investigation offends a white male television personality. This television personality answers only to his network, he has essentially zero accountability with the American public, yet he is able to twist what should be a free speech issue into a liability. The very freedoms that conservatives claim the terrorists hate us for are the ones conservatives want to take away from us, starting with a minority group that spent the first hundred or so years of this country’s existence in chains.
Then, when the President is speaking to a joint session of Congress about health care and the lack of a civil debate, a Congressman interrupts him to tell the President he is lying (concerning whether undocumented workers will receive subsidized healthcare). Americans, in the form of organizations or individuals, well known or ordinary, line up in public forums to either say the Congressman’s behavior was wrong and/or he was wrong on the facts, or to say the Congressman was bravely standing up to a dangerous President.
That division is emblematic of the state of the country, before and soon after 9/11. I personally blame the conservatives who seemed to develop a standard for being a good American, that started with agreeing with and supporting the President in a time of war. They also used broad stereotypes and misinformation to advance their agendas. Although President Bush has left office, those who in the past disagreed with him are still being judged by this standard. Those who support Barack Obama are being judged by a new standard, that of worshiping a false god. Liberals, incensed and infuriated by these standards and other behaviors of conservatives, have hardened their own positions and condemn those who still wish to work with conservatives, including, ironically, our current President.
It’s possible the Chinese should add a new curse besides “May you live in interesting times”. The new one would be “May you live in ironic times”.