Back to Ground Zero

Written very late last night:

I watched a lot of tv tonight, it feels like 9/11 all over again. Well, I was painting and had it on so I wasn’t riveted to the screen, but I saw some of the ABC movie and heard Bush do his bullshit talk. Later I caught my buddy Charlie Rose talking to Leno but I missed the beginning of it, I wish I had seen it all, he was great as always. Then I flipped and watched his actual show for a bit. All 9/11, all night, PBS to Craig Ferguson, everyone had something going on.

The recurring theme throughout was: what happened to that feeling? Everyone everywhere, on every show, host and guest and PBS at some point stopped and talked about that feeling that existed in the world in the days after 9/11, and they all, to a person, said the same thing: we had it, and then we lost it. Blew it, actually. I’d seen the planes going into the towers so many times tonight that I almost felt like we were getting it back. The five-year was so much more intense (or maybe I haven’t been paying much attention the past few years) that I finally turned the tv off and got away…to the computer, of all places.

But that feeling, that united front, where did it all go? All over the tv shows tonight they talked about it; some were pointed and some were diplomatic about it, but there was no mistake, it was there and then it was gone, and — no surprise — it begins and ends with Iraq, with a whole lot in between. The NY Times had this today (yesterday, actually):

When we measure the possibilities created by 9/11 against what we have actually accomplished, it is clear that we have found one way after another to compound the tragedy. Homeland security is half-finished, the development at ground zero barely begun. The war against terror we meant to fight in Afghanistan is at best stuck in neutral, with the Taliban resurgent and the best economic news involving a bumper crop of opium. Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11 when it was invaded, is now a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists.

But it’s even more than that. The tone has changed so much that it is hard to recognize these post-9/11 feelings that everyone spoke of. It’s the bullying and the accusations, the talk of traitors and un-American activities, the lack of patriotism and the stench of nationalism. Godless heathens and seditious appeasers. Who are these people that have been introducing this garbage into the national conversation? Who are these people that have been poisoning the water since those sad post-9/11 days? I don’t have cable tv, tell me, what’s their names again?

It hasn’t just been a disagreement of policies or a dissent from the majority opinion, it has been a clear line in the sand, Us and Them, and one side stays and the other can get the fuck out. That’s the where the good feeling went, right into the ground with four airplanes and two skyscrapers, 3,000 people. The arguments will always be there — for the health of a nation they’d better be — but when they slipped past debate and fell head-first into this snake-pit of screaming heads and flashing web pages with banner headlines, it was already long over.

The reality is that this wave of communal good feeling was never going to last because the politics of the situation depended on its failure, and when I say politics I mean quite specifically Karl Rove and the Republican party, with help from their talk radio and cable tv friends. The divisive and corrosive atmosphere that has propelled the GOP to their recent election year successes has never been anything but a carefully planned venture, and to ruin it with a united nation and a common goal would be to throw it away for good. And the Democratic Party has performed in tandem like a good dog, flinching at the rolled-up paper and laying down obediently when faced with prospect of another night outside in the doghouse. Wanna treat, Lieberman? Good boy!

But yes, Bush blew it. As the President and supposed leader of the country it was his job to set the tone. Even as the nation, and majority of the world, supported over-throwing the Taliban, the tone was clear from the beginning. It had little nuance and even less patience. Yet, in the immediate aftermath it was almost understandable, it even made some sense! So when did stop it making sense?

Iraq was a bomb and it was obvious before, during, and…during. And now most of the world thinks we have an idiot for President, not to mention the voters who kept him there, and I would argue that it is only the voters who were dumb enough not to see past the fear-mongering war rhetoric; Bush and his cronies played them perfectly. Smart. If winning elections and keeping power is the motivation, well, who can possibly call them dumb?

But even with the blunder of losing that feeling, and losing a war that never should have been waged, it is compounded that much more by this playground taunting and boorish behavior of grown men and women known as the Loyalists. It isn’t enough to be wrong about everything — Bill Kristol — but to have pricks like Jonah Goldberg putting out right-wing screeds with titles like Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton, well, it’s a long way from those heady days when we were “all Americans,” as the newspaper in France empathized.

Leaving Iraq now equates to “cutting and running” and disagreeing with Bush means “hating America.” I just hate what it’s become under his failed leadership and long for the days when the post-9/11 fog of war clears up.


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