Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11 retrospective: National unity of fear

We hear invocations periodically, even from President Obama, about how we should recapture the national unity of 9/11.

I actually hope we in the United States never hase that kind of national unity again. Yes, there was a great deal of feeling of human solidarity and patriotism. There was also fear and rage, which very quickly produced jingoism and demagoguery. Some brave patriot in Arizona - of course! - gunned down a Sikh man, Balbir Singh Sodhi, on September 15 because I suppose he though Sodhi looked Muslim. Thousands of actual Muslims were being harassed, imprisoned and often abused because John Ashcroft's Justice Department and a lot of local police forces thought they needed to show they were on the ball by going after some kind of Muslims whether they had any good reason to or not.

It also produced a lot of inanity, like President Bush on September 27 advising the country to express their patriotism this way: "Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed."

Neither the Cheney-Bush White House nor most Republicans in Congress actually wanted national unity. They wanted to use 9/11 to bash the Democrats. And they did. The only kind of unity they wanted was unity behind the Republican Party.

The Democratic Party was already showing the kind of serious weakness that may literally yet be fatal to it as a Party. The Republican Supreme Court handed the Presidency to Dick Cheney and George Bush in 2000 against the popular vote and against what the Electoral College vote would have been had their been an honest and complete recount in Florida. The Democrats should have raised holy hell after that infamous Court decision. They didn't.

Even after that display of the Republicans' extreme partisanship, the Democrats were eager to become cheerleaders on the Dick Cheney/George Bush war bandwagon.

The Democrats should have taken more time with the so-called USA PATRIOT Act (full name: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appro­priate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) and eliminated some of its police-state provisions. They should have held serious hearing into how our glorious generals with by far the larges military in the world weren't able to stop a few fanatics with simple weapons from smashing an airliner into their headquarters, the Pentagon. They should have asked why our cowboy President sat listening before a group of grade-schoolers listening to The Pet Goat with a look on his face like a deer in a headlight. They should have looked at that authorization of force that Cheney and Bush took as a blank check for their Global War on Terror (GWOT).

But they didn't. Rick Perlstein summarizes the Democrats' fecklessness in "Solidarity Squandered" The American Prospect Sept 2011:

The things that happen every time God's chosen nation goes to war to save civilization happened again. We witnessed civil-liberties violations, knuckleheaded jingoism, attacks on internal enemies (and not just Arab Americans), and the almost systematic suspension of sound judgment by experts and mandarins, who sought monsters to slay. Michael Kelly, editor of The Atlantic, called the left "objectively pro-terrorist," and blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote that "the decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts ... may well mount what amounts to a fifth column."

A little more than a year later, when the administration proposed to go to war in Iraq, it became clear that many still surrendered to trust. Representative Dick Gephardt explained that he had voted for the war because "an A-bomb in a Ryder truck in New York, in Washington, and St. Louis ... cannot happen." The New Republic excoriated the "abject pacifism" and "intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics." New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote, "History will not eas­ily excuse us if ... we defer a reckoning with an aggressive totalitarian leader who intends not only to develop weapons of mass destruction but also to use them." He concluded, "A return to a hollow pursuit of containment will be the most dangerous option of all."

America had changed. Liberals, too many of us, had changed. We were not acting like guardians of solidarity. We were acting like suckers.
No, please, let's never again have the kind of "national unity" we had in September of 2001.

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