Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Trauma Reinforcement as Political Tactic
I'm reminded of this as we witness the spectacle of 9/11 mourning. Anger, sorrow and reliving the event all mingle together, often topped by the cherry of jingoistic militarism and righteous desire to make someone, anyone, pay for the tragedy and lost lives.
It should be superfluous for me to mention that more American soldier's lives have been lost in Iraq than were lost in the 9/11 attack. Iraq who had nothing to do with the event. And Osama bin Laden, who had a great deal to do with the attack, remains uncaught. And Saudi Arabia, whose nationals made up 16 of the 19 hijackers, remains a close ally of the USA. It should be superfluous to mention these facts, to gather them together as an indictment of the Bush Administration; sadly, it's not.
Every year at this time I'm amazed, bemused, appalled, and disgusted at much of the rhetoric spewing forth around this event. I see reinforcement of trauma, revision of history, reinterpretation of events.
One particular thing bothers me: Labeling all the people who died on 9/11 "heroes". It's a misapplication of the word, a form of pseudo-canonization intended to feed and foster feelings of revenge. Against who? Apparently not the real architects behind the event.
Let me be clear: to be a hero, one has to have done something heroic. Look it up in a dictionary. Were some of the people who died on 9/11 heroic? Undoubtedly. Many of the emergency responders in particular come to mind. And I'm sure there were many acts of heroism performed by ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, acts we'll never know. I'm not trying to deny or degrade those actions. I'm just saying that indiscriminately calling everyone there a hero is, in effect, a lie.
Yet inflating the lives lost into national heroes serves certain purposes and groups. There's an advantage to goading the public into expecting action and demanding retaliation. And perhaps the public won't look too closely at the actual effectiveness and appropriateness of the actions taken. A little preemptive war in Iraq, a 72 hour bombing run on Iran, whatever. Oops, the Iran thing hasn't happened yet. My mistake.
The deaths of 9/11 are tragic. Yet I feel it would be smart to keep our eyes clear and not be misdirected by those who would use them to mask ulterior motivations.
And in closing, just one last thought: Where's Osama?