Even then, the first thought was “George Bush, what the hell did you do?”
I was on the Han River in Seoul, South Korea celebrating a friend’s birthday at a picnic on the riverfront. Like the fourth of July, we had sparklers and giggled as we tried to eat the ice cream cake before it melted in the late summer weather. In a couple of days I would be on a flight back to California to return to Stanford University to be a fifth year senior and co-terminal master’s student.
But when I got back to my aunt’s apartment, she was still awake and glued to the television. Somehow she had CNN turned on and said there was a disaster in New York. Some more overblown American drama, I thought. But when I saw the footage of the planes hitting the World Trade Center Towers, my thought shifted immediately to George Bush, what the hell did you do?
Flights were canceled and I missed the start of the school quarter by about two weeks. That meant I had an unexpected windfall of more time in Korea where I watched the saccharine dramatics of post 9-11 emotional whack-a-mole from outside of the United States. Somehow there was a lot of narcissism that crept into everyone’s vying to be the biggest mourner of ‘everyone’s loss’.
That’s how I avoided what was the greatest dump truck of false humility and obsession with repeating “thoughts and prayers”, “thoughts and prayers”, “thoughts and prayers”. But when I landed back in America, I hadn’t been sufficiently brainwashed to go along with the system of finding some sick camaraderie of a ‘united American identity’ that only a tragedy of this nature could produce. I watched the puppet show in horror and had to pretend the shock on my face stemmed from a hatred for bin Laden.
It was a fake attack to create fake patriotism to create a very real cover for some extremely real resource grabs. You think the defense spending contracts were the end goal? No, that’s just the frosting. The real cake layers were rights to oil wells, mineral mines and cheap overseas labor. But you weren’t supposed to pay attention to that and you didn’t because you were thinking about and praying for ALL the victims of the terror attacks. Except, you were not thinking about and praying for all of them.
You were mainly thinking about how warm and fuzzy this made you feel. Suddenly connecting to your neighbors and others you never had reason to let your guard down in front of? Getting permission to be generous, kind and self-sacrificing without exposing yourself to ridicule and being taken advantage of?
By the turn of the 21st century, American civil society fell into a pit where serving the common good could only be sanctioned by an inexplicable terror attack. Yet you didn’t want to admit it. (And I bet half of you don’t even know what civil society means because you purposely weren’t taught it.)
How could you face this ugly horror? It would mean American culture had deteriorated to savagery. It was so… unAmerican. So you turned a blind eye and kept going along with the motions so easily dictated for you to follow and be socially acceptable and therefore self-congratulatory. How much more rewarding! The deluded path felt better and truer because it was in line with how things should be. And so it must be. Even if it was just the image of reality. We could always grow into it. That’s how America was built, right? You rationalized. Thus, you were precisely falling into the collective blindness and collective fantasy the terror attack was designed to create.
Twenty years on, cracks are forming in the narrative around 9-11. Perhaps we’ll never in this lifetime admit to the neocon the neo-cons pulled to inject their last hoorah into the so-called New World Order they tried to create stemming from the establishment of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. Rather than being distracted by the bin Ladens (they were Bush business partners for Texas’ sakes!), follow the history of the cabal that has successfully created a shadow branch of government since the 1940s.
If you’re a good-hearted American, most of the self-hate you may direct at yourself as part of a ‘hypocritical, imperialistic U.S. empire’ has nothing to do with you. Do you have a bank account balance with ’empire’ money? Don’t take the hit for a group who has successfully usurped American democracy for their own enrichment and uses our army as their private militia, our taxes as their venture capital and our own laws to get away with it all.
That’s where I was on 9-11 in 2001. And it’s where I still am on 9/11 in 2021.