Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years After

It is now the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the day that was to change the world. It united a nation, brought goodwill from all over the planet toward the wounded superpower, and awoke all of us to some of the worst evils that lurk while exposing us to some of the best mankind has to offer. It was a day etched in our memories forever, when political stripe was insignificant and the petty things in life seemed to matter not. We were all vulnerable, but thankful for what we had.

Political discourse in North America had become poisoned by 2001, largely due to the advent of the internet and 24 hour news channels providing a platform for the "punditocracy", not to mention talk radio. Bill Clinton had been a divisive figure, even while still garnering large job approval ratings. And the 2000 presidential election really pushed things over the edge. But following 9/11 there was a hope that people would be able to get over political pettiness and look out for each other just as the uniformed and civilian New Yorkers did on that day. Sadly, that hope only lasted about a month.

It didn't take long for George W. Bush to become the most polarizing leader in memory. While some of his opposition is extreme to say the least, most of the current climate can be blamed on nobody except the man who claimed to be "a uniter, not a divider." It is a sad reality that 9/11 itself is a political tool, and Bush has been the master craftsman. He has conflated 9/11 and the war or terror with Iraq and other questionable decisions ever since. From the first time he said "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" he made it a policy to demonize all opposition that shared the same goals. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, Donald Rumsfeld likened Iraq war critics to the appeasers of Nazi Germany. To the Bush crowd, "with us" doesn't mean wanting to defeat terrorists, but wanting to do it their way. And supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while the poorest fight the war. It's a non-customizable package deal.

Bush, of course, is not alone in playing the political game with 9/11. Take, for example, the ABC docudrama The Path to 9/11. Democrats and supporters of Bill Clinton are all up in arms over the film because a few scenes were fabricated and make that administration look bad - they've even gone so far as to suggest that ABC not even show this film, a la The Reagans being pulled from CBS a few years ago under Republican pressure. I think it's ridiculous. I am quite aware of the fact that the movie was written and produced by conservative filmmakers, and that it has a bit of a hostile slant toward Clinton and his people. But I do not believe in censorship of this kind. I seriously doubt that anybody's opinion would be swayed by a made for TV movie, even one as ambitious as this. I find it laughable that pundits on the Right have embraced a TV film as the be all and end all expose of the much hated Clinton administration. And I find it somewhat dismaying that much of the Left blogosphere has made an issue out of defending Bill Clinton, who was by no means a liberal president, even if that mattered. The whole argument seems to come down to either "Clinton was better than Bush" or "Bush was better than Clinton", or that somehow the attacks on 9/11 wouldn't have happened with the right one of them in charge at the right time.

Bullshit. Terrorism would not have been a high enough priority for anybody in office to stop 9/11, if indeed it could have been stopped. Believe me, I'm no fan of Bush and will argue against most anything he has done as president, but I'm not about to let Clinton off the hook or get into a food fight based on nothing but irrational hatred of either of them. The U.S., like other countries, has flawed national policies that are ingrained in the system irrespective of the elected leaders. Whether the Right wants to acknowledge it or not, many of these policies over the last century have contributed to the current pickle we are in. And whether the far Left wants to acknowledge it or not, you can't just try to undo every mistake from the past and downplay the realities of the present. The best way to honour those who sacrificed everything five years ago is for thinking people to discuss a sensible future.

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