Patriot Day Thoughts

And so we arrive at the eighth anniversary of “The-Day-Before-Which-The-Thinking-Was-All-Different.” Back when we thought accused wrongdoers should have things like due process, attorneys, charges, trials… before we decided to lock them up and throw away the key. Back when we might have “trusted our government” to bring us goodies like health care, but probably wouldn’t accept “trust us” when it came to reading our mail and e-mail, listening to our phone calls, and reserving the right to “preventively detain” any of us for, you know, “our own safety.”
Regular readers know that on “the day” I happened to be at work one city block north of the WTC, and, given that proximity, a few degrees alteration of a terrorist-pilot’s flight path, and I’m not sitting here typing this. (Given that proximity, my reward for bearing such proximate witness was to lose my job when the office building became uninhabitable). Oh… and as a Brooklynite, I and my family got to live downwind of the burning Ground Zero site, with God knows what long term consequences. So, that said, I take all of this quite seriously… I just don’t think most of my countrymen really do. Many of us, lo these years later, still see the world as some kind of sporting event… the metaphor (like the fakery of Jack Bauer knowing who he is torturing and that he will always “get results”) seems so much better than the unpleasant reality (we have no idea who we have oin custody– and the fact that over 80% of Guantanamo detainees have won their court cases should be as clear a reminder of this as anything– and hence, we are probably going to torture someone who knows absolutely nothing who will send us on a wild goose chase just to stop the torture)…
Anyway, in prior years, I’ve honored 9-11 heroes like Richie Pearlman, the selfless volunteer paramedic, or Rick Rescorla, the Morgan Stanley security chief, each of whom gave their lives trying to save others, and of course, I mention them again. But at some point, we do have to, as the President says, “look forward”… although, not, of course, to “forgive” the terrorists, or the evil (some were just misguided or overzealous; most were just evil) government officials who took us down the road of torture and totalitarianism, and we have to hold them accountable… but as a psychic matter, realize that we are hardly passive victims… we are still members of the most powerful society that has ever existed, and can, if nothing else, publicly express our outrage at what has been done in our names. Well, some of us can, anyway.
We can, for example, express our outrage that purported Constitutional Law teacher Barack Obama proposes to be the first President to introduce a bill providing for “preventive detention” to Congress (the arch-reactionaries Coburn and Graham love it). OK: I expressed mine.
And I’d like to say a word in favor of Congressman Joe Wilson. Yeah, Joe was out of line with that “you lie” thing, but let’s cut him some slack. Sure, Bob Novak’s death gave him a little bit of closure, but poor Joe really hasn’t been right since his wife Valerie Plame’s covert CIA status was “outed” thanks to Rove, Libby, et al. A little “looking forward” there too, maybe…
Happy Patriot Day everyone.