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9-11 Reflections

I watched a fair amount of the mainstream media coverage of the first anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, and was deeply troubled by much of what I heard and saw. I had hoped that there would have been more objective and honest reflection on what brought 19 people to the point where they felt that perpetrating such a horrific act was justified. I wanted Americans to start asking themselves if we cared that our foreign policy goals were being directed primarily by selfish and short-sighted commercial interests, and that we would only become true world leaders by setting the standard for fairness and decency.

But that wasn't what I saw on TV on September 11th, 2002. What I did see was a form of blindness and endless self-pity, with no sign of the larger questions being asked or answered. On and on the mantra went, we've been hurt, we must wallow in our pain and strike back at any and all perceived threats, and the government has free rein to change and interpret our laws to suit their needs. You sure didn't hear about any tears being shed for the hundreds of thousands of innocents that have died around the world as a result of US foreign policy, particularly those who have been slaughtered in the Middle East. You did hear plenty about how this nation is more patriotic (unless you look at voter registration and turnout figures), and how 9-11 has brought us all closer together (unless you're one of those people who look like “them”). We also heard about how Americans have become more caring and compassionate, but none of that compassion seems to extend beyond our borders, or to the people at the lower end of our economy, our huge immigrant workforce population.

I spent 9-11 working the grape harvest with a crew of about 35 Mexican workers, who probably didn't give the anniversary much if any thought, and can you blame them? They feed this country, working in every aspect of the food production process that demands a strong back and a will to match the muscle. They keep our homes and yards tidy, take care of the old folks and toddlers, and do all the menial jobs we're too proud and important to do for ourselves. And when we're done with them, they're disposed of like any other expendable resource, without a “thank you” or second thought. I thought of the billions around the world just like them, all struggling just as hard to survive, and knowing just as surely that the most powerful nation on the earth views them with the same level of indifference. They too must know that with America's vast wealth it could easily end world hunger and much of the endless misery caused by preventable illnesses, but that America has different priorities. They know that when a million people are slaughtered in Rwanda America will sit on the sidelines, since Rwanda doesn't figure into the world economy like an important country like Kuwait. They know that America will defend democracy only if it helps the bottom line, and will subvert it time and time again if it doesn't.

Americans are becoming more and more oblivious to the fact that the global view of the man-in-the-street in America is an all-consuming monster, who will cram every negative aspect of its culture down its throat while at the same time suck every resource, both human and natural from their nation. And all of this is occurring in what has been termed “the information age” where knowledge is flowing back-and-forth at the speed of light, and we are supposed to be exposed to unprecedented levels of enlightenment. But Americans aren't just oblivious to the plight of our neighbors, we're also deaf-mutes when it comes to the destruction of the foundation of our own country. Never before has the constitution and bill of rights meant so little or have been so rapidly undermined, with the few voicing objections being labeled as unpatriotic or outright traitors.

You have to admit that the Bush administration has done a masterful job of distracting Americans’ attention every time the news media's attention turns to their pillaging of the treasury or inattention to the wrongdoings of their friends in corporate America's upper echelons. Every time a domestic issue pops up that they want to bury they trot out a new attack threat or some other diversion, using the same tactic described by Hitler's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels 60 years ago. Goebbels said that all you need to do to control a population is to give them an enemy to fear, even a manufactured one will do. The King George second dynasty is definitely media-savvy, and has tuned the American public's perception to near-perfection. All of this makes me wonder, will America become the next Roman empire, expansive and proud, yet decaying from within? Will we as a nation learn from past examples of negligence and greed, or become the new ones?

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