I used to sleep at the foot of Old Glory, and awaken
at dawn’s early light. But, much to my surprise, when I
opened my eyes, I was a victim of the Great Compromise.
They said I would always remember where I was on September 11,2001. It was our Pearl Harbour, a day that would change everything. And they were right. New York was wounded and we, awash in freshly minted ideological fervour, were filled with righteous rage.
Even at the time, however, I was dimly aware that something about the whole scenario was off. The response of the people around me was less one of shocked horror than a kind of perverse delight that manifested itself in the immediacy of the battlecry. The figure of the Muslim radical crystallised before our eyes. I was among Americans and they suddenly knew who to hate, and who to fear. The attacks on the Twin Towers somehow gave them all a sense of justification and legitimacy, at the expense of a few thousand dead America suddenly experienced a vindication of it rightness.
I was inoculated, in part, against the more egregious effects of this manufactured absolution by the dual vaccine of petty Canadian nationalism, and a deeply instilled pacifism from an Anabaptist upbringing that made me balk against the adding of horror upon horror. It did not make sense to me because of a great tragedy we should praise the efforts of soldiers going out to make war and kill more people. The whole thing reeked of ideology and conspiracy. Suddenly the United States was given a martyr. It could muscle out and play world-cop, and to any dissent they could invoke the Law of 9/11. The ideological transformation was instant, it was as if planned. In effect the conspiracies theories etched out later, whatever their empirical truth, grasped the essence of what happened. Even if 9/11 was not a conspiracy it functioned like one.
What I failed to understand, however, was that a deathblow had been dealt to America. Not in the attacks themselves, America could have withstood those. But in the aftermath, when the politicians at the White House raised the rallying cry urging the minions to shop and to hate the (Muslim) other that – that was the severe blow that struck at the heart of American freedom. It was absurd, and continues to be absurd, that Americans accepted the threat of a few Arabs with AK-47s as legitimate threat. The acceptance of this threat, and the subsequent heated rhetoric and escalated hatred, signaled nothing but the death of the freedom. In thrall to a figure of pathetic violence – one which ate at their hearts, even our hearts and brains- we became the abject servants of surveillance and warfare. Mindless we regurgitated the slogans “war on terror” “axis of evil” “Muslim extremists.” And in this regurgitation America was given over into slavery.
It should never have been accepted. The nation that struggled through the civil rights movement should have ousted those clowns who bled her at the onset. The world should have shook with anger at this appalling destruction. By what right did the Bush government return the home of the free to a new slavery? By what right does the Obama administration continue to turn the wealth of America into technologies of spying and death? A nation afraid of itself, afraid of its own people, afraid of all people. A nation that hunts down women and children in the wretched places of the earth because its leaders, fat from the blood of their own people and of all people, are scared. They hide behind wall street, they hide behind desks. And America lies bleeding, mortally wounded by its own leaders. Dying and numb, is there any hope for America, or has she been wounded unto death?
Sometimes I suspect that America has already died. That whatever configuration lies south of me, isn’t America, but just some unspeakable machine that plugs along stupidly razing down whatever lies in its path. But I don’t want to believe that. Somewhere deep down I harbour a hope. A hope that what was good in America, that a passion for liberty and justice, however misguided it was at times, will return against all odds. That America might cast off the spell of those wizened enchanters who taught her to believe in fear, hatred and moral cowardice, and become a beacon of light in world of shadows. It will be a miracle, I know, for America to live, but it is my prayer and my hope.
Return, America, from the world of demons and shadows. Do not fear the iron spirits of death that hover over your people, and all people, wreaking the violent magic of corpulent sorcerers. Throw of the chains of hatred. Be entangled in fear no more. The Law of Death is unbecoming to America the beautiful. Cast of your shroud and live.