Friday, September 16, 2011

Remembering 9/11

I recently posted the following on another website, where various people (mostly Americans) were sharing their feelings about 9/11.  Mine seem germane to a lot of the things I say around here, so I thought it might be good to repost them. 

I remember 9/11 every day. I remember that all people, myself included, are dangerous morons, liable to believe ridiculous nonsense and to express those beliefs with wanton violence. I remember my own naive faith in God and country, and reflect that I was once as fanatical and irrational as the most raving Islamic terrorist.  

Not too many years ago, if my God (or my commander-in-chief) had ordered me to ship out to the Middle East and shoot up Muslims there, I would have gone, and I would have pulled the trigger. Of course I would have lamented that my victims couldn’t see the light and join God’s side (embracing the “freedom” that I brought at gunpoint). I would have said that my ideals were high, because they were. They were so high that I had lost contact with more mundane things, like the value of forgiving others and living in peace. I was so committed to freedom as an ideal, that I was willing to deprive myself and others of it in real time. I would give up my ability to make moral decisions (to kill or not to kill, to forgive or not to forgive). I would kill other people for specious crimes that boil down to nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (If you had the misfortune to be born an Iraqi or an Afghani, you automatically run the risk of dying violently by my hands, as a civilian casualty, no matter what your individual attitude toward other people might be. Hey, at least you die “for freedom.”) I had no more moral integrity than those criminals who blew up the Towers. And I was a blue-blooded American (descended from people who immigrated before the Revolution).

9/11 was the beginning of a really painful realization for me. I slowly began waking up to the fact that my ideals, like the ideals of those terrorists, are toxic. Today, I am still American. But I am no longer a tool that others can manipulate with the word “freedom.” I don’t kill on command. I don’t let anyone take away my moral responsibility for whatever it is that I happen to be doing. I will never be as naive, as thoughtless, or as stupidly patriotic as I once was.

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