On the day of the September 11 massacre, I was off work, post-call from a night at the hospital. I was puttering in the garden. Then I was on the internet. A friend messaged me to look at the news. One of the twin towers was on fire.
I thought, that's bad. But not earth shattering. Except to whoever was in the tower. He said, no, this is a major fire.
I turned on the news, and saw it was a lot more than that. This was a horrendous fire. Then, watching the news, an airliner flew into the second tower, and it was engulfed in flames. There were people falling from the towers, to their deaths. During those falls, they knew they would die in minutes, or seconds.
Here I am, maybe 3,000 miles away, watching the scene of mass murder. At the time, no one knew who was responsible.
Then, I watched on TV as a tower collapsed. At that moment, I was stunned. I kept thinking, there is something not just wrong, but surreal, about that. On the news, they said there may have been 40,000 people inside.
I emailed my partner, who was in China at the time. He didn't believe me.
Then, the 2nd tower collapsed.
There was a news announcement. Another plane crash, at the Pentagon. Another plane headed to DC.
On that day, thousands of people were murdered. Many thousands more lost their loved ones, their child, their parent, their sibling, their friend, their lover, their spouse, their breadwinner, their confidant, their colleague.
On that day, the sky emptied of airplanes. No vapor trails. Clear blue sky. Eerie, and silent.
There are not many things that happen in a lifetime, when we can say "that day changed the world", or "changed our way of life". But on that day, the world did change, and our way of life did change. For the worse.
Looking back, at all of the water under the bridge, it feels like half a lifetime. Economies were devastated Families lost their source of income. We fought 2 wars. Thousands more died, possibly hundreds of thousands. Politics in the US became more dysfunctional, more brutal, more harsh. The world became more harsh.
Fast forward to today.
Today at work, no one seemed to remember, today is Sept 11th. People do talk about current events, but not this.
It's a day that we should all remember, up close and personal, in detail. I' want to commemorate the date. So much happened. So much changed. Those of us here, now, despite what we've gone through, we are the fortunate ones.
I don't have anything political, or social, or religious to say today. Just, that I remember.
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Wow. Very well written, and entirely accurate, in my opinion. My Canadian government is working very quickly to sell its soul as well...
Ted, the 9/11/01 attack affected Americans in many ways, but to say the US forever lost any pretense of moral authority on 8/6-8/9/1945 ignores vast amounts of history, both American and Japanese.
I won't support that view here because you might be unwilling to accept any view but that one.
Please do, however, consider
1) the 1937(?) Japanese atrocities in Nanking, China, and
2) the 1945 Japanese military's determination to commit national suicide.
I in no way apologize for the atrocities carried out by imperial Japan. In the summer of 1945 my mother was serving on a ship in the Pacific, and my father was in Germany, expecting orders to deploy against Japan. So, even though I wasn't yet around, I had 'skin in the game', so to speak, regarding an invasion of Japan.
By at least May of that year the Japanese ruling classes realized that their war was lost, and Emperor Hirohito was actively trying to surrender. He was frustrated by General Tojo who intended to fight until the last man (and attempted a coup), and as well by President Truman who stubbornly refused any surrender that left Hirohito on the throne (which the US did anyway after the surrender). Of course, using just these three names is a simplification, and many other personalities and factions were significantly involved. Moreover, Japan was hoping for surrender mediated by the Soviet Union, though they must have known that Roosevelt had promised Japan to Stalin at Yalta. It should be remembered that the Soviets were our allies at the time.
Perhaps dropping the world's first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima shifted Japanese thinking somewhat, but it was the Soviet declaration of war and invasion of Manchuria on 9/9/1945 that effectively ended the war. The bomb dropped later that day on Nagasaki was nothing but a fist shown to Stalin -- an exhibition that Truman now had an enormous prosthetic dick, and that all earlier deals were off.
It was mass murder for imperial gain by the US -- nothing more. That's why I say that we forever lost any claim to moral superiority with that act. Not that we hadn't greatly tarnished the claim before, and haven't continued to do so since. But that one act stands symbolically as the full embrace by the US as the face of death in the world.
Ted, an interesting term -- the narcissism of small differences -- applies to some of the conversations here, but at the same time we do have to use language carefully.
You said above Japan was hoping for surrender mediated by the Soviet Union.
The histories I've seen say the Japanese military, who had long ruled the nation, preferred death to surrender.
Are both of us correct?
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...they must have known that Roosevelt had promised Japan to Stalin at Yalta.
If true, that would strengthen your case. I don't recall seeing anywhere that:
1) Roosevelt had promised Japan to Stalin at Yalta, or that
2) [Japan's leaders] knew Roosevelt had promised Japan to Stalin at Yalta.
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It should be remembered that the Soviets were our allies at the time.
Military allies for about five years.
Economic allies, never. President Woodrow Wilson sent American troops to help the non-Leninist Russians defeat the Leninist Russians.
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It was mass murder for imperial gain by the US -- nothing more.
Were the firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo not mass murders?
Or do you object to the use of atomic bombs?
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BTW, I too oppose America's dog-eat-dog capitalism.
But look at the consequences of those particularly hardboiled and "realistic" acts, the atomic bombings of Japan. The USA demonstrated to the world that in a pinch, we would use this new and super-powerful weapon to horribly kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, and doing an involuntary science experiment on millions more. No sooner was the atomic bomb developed than it was used - forever destroying the hope that nuclear weapons could be considered too awful to be used, that humanity might agree to be nicer to each other than that. The USA went ahead and used them, to swiftly end a war that we were winning anyway. And other nations immediately decided they had to have the bomb also. The atomic bombings helped put us in this awful situation where a lot of countries have nuclear weapons and some other government might decide - when they are in a pinch - to use them. Helped create one of the worst dangers facing humanity.
Compared to that, swiftly ending a war is almost a triviality. The USA had the option to make a moral statement, to claim a moral high ground, by not using the A-bomb. But they didn't, and that could end up making the difference between humanity destroying itself and not.
The atomic bombings could also be part of the reason for the phobia people have about nuclear power. Nuclear power is associated with Hiroshima and horrible injuries. But avoiding nuclear power has made global warming much worse.
And if one atrocity justifies another, all atrocities are OK. You can always find some justification, some grievance to avenge.
Luara, human cruelties can be debated forever.
I was once an idealist. For instance, when WW2 ended and I read of the German concentration camps, I hated that humanity so often chose insane people to lead nations.
When I first read Neitzsche's remarks about the way we humans treat each other, I disliked them so much that for years I wouldn't read any more of his writings.
In a psychology course I happened to read that a child's idealism usually peaks at about twelve years of age, and then gradually declines. My idealism lasted years longer, until I plunged into hardball politics.
I became cynical, but that lasted only until I saw that idealism and cynicism both result from a lack of knowledge about the world, but especially from feelings of powerlessness.
I agree with you that no atrocity justifies another. Because atrocities will not end, preserving our mental health becomes important.
I found idealism and cynicism, and the resulting despair, to be "childish things I had to give up."
I heard people more experienced in politics than I talking about what humans do to each other, and heard a sadness I hadn't known how to express.
Now, when I hear of atrocities, I remind myself that my ancestors were pond scum and they had no morality at all. We've come a long way.
BTW, you didn't learn any of the above in a math class, did you?
And then, incredibly, while on a bloody roll, we also killed our old ally turned enemy Iraq on entirely conflated 'evidence', despite the fact that doing so ran precisely counter to any US interests.
And that is the reason I will have a very hard time voting for Hillary Clinton IF she ever runs for prez. In October 2002 she delivered what I can only call an impassioned speech in favor of invading Iraq, at a time when almost 49% of Americans were yelling, "NO WAY!" Either she did not do her homework, or she was (and still is) influenced by the xian subversives who run the Family Foundation. See http://jeffsharlet.com/
I agree. If I have to vote for Hillary in 3 years I probably will, but it will be under protest of her consistently war hungry actions and obsequiousness to Israel no matter what. She, Susan Rice and Samantha Power have been the 'big dicks' in recent US belligerent foreign policy. Every vote I've cast since 1972 has been an anti-war vote, though sometimes I've had to hold my nose and go with the lesser of evils.
We're neck deep in the big muddy and the big fool says to march on.
Has anyone suggested we hold memorials for the thousands of civilians our military killed and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan for no good reason at all? Except so that Flight Suit Boy could make a show of landing a jet on an aircraft carrier that was carefully positioned just off the coast of San Diego, and point to a sign that said "Mission Accomplished." Or for our own dead and wounded who were brought home secretly.
This is the 10th year I have been ashamed to call myself an American.
Or to the hundreds of thousands directly or indirectly killed by US foreign policy? What about those torn apart by drone missiles piloted by flyboys ten thousand air conditioned miles away or those who live in constant fear of them. How about the children who have never known anything but the constant threat of what must seem to them random death from above -- El Aguilar Del Norte?
We Americans are the face of death. War is what we do and almost all of what we do.
Eisenhower was right...too many huge companies (with lobbyists everywhere) have a vested interest in having us butt into every mismanaged country's problems. It's too bad they can't do something constructive like build manned spacecraft that don't fall apart, and/or high-speed rail systems for starters. We don't have to stay in the killing business.
Has anyone suggested we hold memorials for the thousands of civilians our military killed and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan for no good reason at all?
You just did. I will join the effort.
Who else will?