On 9/11 and the things you never knew to remember:
Let me be clear: I love my country. If I didn’t believe America was, or could be, inherently good, I would leave. I love America.
The attack on September 11th, 2001 took 3000+ lives. The ensuing chaos that enveloped the country in the days and years afterward would prove more deadly than any foreign terror attack could touch, and in that sense, in many senses, the terrorists won.
17 years ago today on #September11th, the US was attacked by 19 terrorists.
The Bush administration went on to punish 5 million Muslim Americans, and launched a War in Iraq that left 400,000 Iraqis dead.#NeverForget what happened on #Sept11, and the injustices that came after.
— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) September 11, 2018
Every year on 9/11 we do this “rah rah Go America,” bullshit. We post our World Trade Center pictures on social media, we plant a flag, or fly one. We tell everyone to #NeverForget. But many never learned what we most needed to remember in the first place.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the world rallied around us. In one small town in Canada where 38 planes were forced to land with 6,700 passengers, (effectively doubling the towns population) residents housed and entertained and cooked for these stranded strangers. In England, Queen Elizabeth broke royal protocol and had her guards play the Star Spangled Banner for the first time ever for Americans who were not able to get home. Even Kenyan Masai tribespeople gifted America 14 cows, which they consider sacred, by the way. But while first responders were busy clearing the rubble of the World Trade Center and volunteers were lined up to donate at blood banks, another movement was busy turning America on itself.
#NeverForget the 3000 victims of September 11 terror attacks, including Balbir Singh Sodhi, a small business owner and father of several young children in AZ, targeted and killed by a gunman b/c of his ethnicity and faith in the days following 9/11. pic.twitter.com/N2lel6LzMm
— Kumar Rao (@KumarRaoNYC) September 11, 2018
I grew up down the street from where Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed. I would later go to junior high with a young man whose family had been close to Sodhi. Mesa, Arizona was, and continues to be, mostly White. To be fair, I was only nine in 2001, but I was not sheltered from the reality of the 9/11 attacks. What I, and many other Whites were shielded from, was the hatred and bigotry that ensued in the aftermath. It would be years before I would learn about Sodhi, or even understand what it meant to be Sikh. Islamophobia ran rampant after 9/11 and Muslim and Sikh Americans are still paying the price today.
September 11th glorified first responders. According to this New Orleans cop, before 9/11, being a police officer was a blue collar job, “You did it and went home. Nothing to celebrate. Nothing to brag about.” Police have a dangerous job and yes, much like I’m thankful to have farmers and roofers, I’m grateful police go to work when they keep us safe. But statistically, farmers and roofers have a more dangerous job than police officers, and they don’t kill anyone else. Today, the New Orleans cop says, police forces are full of “overly militaristic asshats with punisher skulls on their body armor.”
“I hate what 9/11 did to law enforcement. Not because it isn’t nice to feel appreciated sometimes, but for the ego and bullshit it has led to.”
Our police forces are out of hand, both in attitude and in militarization. In 1991 there were 1.92 justified homicides for every 10,000 violent crimes. By 2001, it was 2.63. By 2011, it was 3.35 (source: Washington Post). They say they’re protecting us from terrorists, but, really, have they themselves not become terrorists?
Now, after years of being told how great we are, you can barely find a cop that got into the job for the right reason. It was about protecting and serving the community. It wasn’t “us vs them.” It wasn’t “justice – just us.”
9/11 led to the sanctification of our military, leaving the war protesting days of Vietnam far behind. President Bush led America into a war with Iraq (where not a single 9/11 terrorist was from) for blood and oil, and America rallied behind the cause. We were under attack after all, right? We sent thousands of young men and women to kill, and to die, or to return injured or mentally ill. American soldiers geared up for war and the public stood there, pom pons in hand, ready to ship them off to defend our land. It was us versus them. Radical “Islamic” Terrorists versus Captain America.
“When I was in Iraq I knew it was all bullshit, we were there for oil. And I understood why those people were fighting us. Didn’t stop me from fighting back, of course.” – Stan Moroncini, United States Army, 80th Ordnance Battalion
And just like the planes were hijacked by terrorists, so too was our patriotism. It was stolen by the ignorant and warped into nationalism. Even before the Muslim Ban. Before Charlottesville’s streets were full of angry White men scream chanting “Blood and soil!” Before the “wall.” Before TSA began their targeted assault on Muslims and people of color, before they made a Muslim woman show them her bloodied sanitary pad in order for her to fly. Before we stole babies from the arms of their fleeing families and threw them into internment camps for toddlers to be raped, mistreated and discarded like the foreign “illegal,” trash we made them out to be…that fear was commandeered by bigots who twisted it into hate long before Trump ever step foot in the oval office.
The patriotic “we are all American,” “come together,” days of September 11th, 2001 are long gone, and in their place lays the fierce nationalism that divides this country more than any foreign terrorist ever could. That aggressive nationalism and mindless flag waving is what gave America the Trump administration.
That’s a real tweet, ya’ll, and it’s still up on Twitter. Check the source link for yourself. Trump also blamed London’s Mayor for last year’s terror attacks on the city. I’m gonna go out of my way and guess it’s because their Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is Muslim. Guess he decided against returning the favor and playing their national anthem and went with a more directly Islamophobic, nationalist approach.
3000 people died on 9/11 and now we live under the watchful eye of the Patriot Act and the dirty boot of Homeland Security. 3000 people died in Puerto Rico…and people continue to die in Puerto Rico but we don’t raise our patriotic, flag waving, #NeverForget for them.
Patriotism is kneeling to call attention to nation rife with police brutality. Patriotism is marching to demand justice from our courts and peace from our police. Nationalism is buying red, white and blue Nikes only to burn them when they partner with Kaepernick. Nationalism is posting #NeverForget every year like clockwork without acknowledging what injustices America has brought upon it’s people, and the world, in retribution for that day.
So excuse me while I sit one out on 9/11. I’ve gotta take a knee until America begins to recognize what it is we really needed to remember in the first place.
Remember that Americans fight for religious freedom for all, including Muslims, Sikhs and everyone in between.
Remember that police officers aren’t heroes until they are, and no police officer can be a hero if he sits idly by while his fellow officers mercilessly kill unarmed citizens in the street, or in their own home. They cannot be heros while they terrorize peaceful protestors, throwing flash bang grenades into unarmed crowds dressed in riot gear like concrete soldiers.
Remember that patriotism does not mean idolizing symbols of American freedom like the flag, rather it means actively working towards that freedom by speaking out against systematic injustices until every American is free.
Remember that America is a land of immigrants who came to this country with a distant dream of freedom, and that immigrants and refugees are welcome here.
Remember that there are no “very fine people,” in a crowd of nazis.
Remember that in order to foster a tolerant society, one must not tolerate intolerance.
Remember that our military is made up of hundreds of thousands of sons and daughters and that when they come home they need medical and mental care, not a military parade.