A NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- About a month ago, when I was making a appointment with my dentist, the secretary said, "How's Sept. 11 for you?" It startled me.
"You're working on Sept. 11?" I said. "Somehow it doesn't seem right."
And it doesn't, does it? Today, Sept. 11, should be a national day of mourning in America, not a day of typing, shopping, dental hygiene and automotive repair. We should be grieving for the dead -- the American dead, the Afghani dead, the Iraqi dead, the other dead. We should be engaged in a day of reflection and discussion. We should be mourning the loss of our innocence. We should review the path we as a country have taken since that tragic day.
Sept. 11 calls for nothing less.
Many people scoff at the idea that "things are different now," that the date has special meaning. After all, planes still fly, the stock market still operates, George W. Bush is still president, television still dominates our lives with silly sitcoms and sillier reality shows, and Julia Roberts still makes movies.
And in fact, in the world of reality, which strangely is also the world of denial, nothing really has changed.
After Sept. 11, we talked about the death of irony. Irony never died.
We said the news would become more serious; no more shark attacks and Chandra Levy. Now we have Laci and Kobe.
We said we would re-examine our dependence on Arab oil. Instead, we flooded the country with SUVs.
But everything did change on Sept. 11. On that day, the lid of a Pandora's box was ripped open and every evil known to man came flying out.
Instead of beginning a national discussion on how best to bring to justice the criminals who attacked us, we embarked on a national policy of wanton revenge. And as many of us predicted, the violence has not brought peace, but only more violence.
We have killed thousands in Afghanistan. In Iraq, the latest death toll is about 37,000. Hundreds of Americans have been killed, and thousands more have been wounded. We hear of new casualties every day.
We threw away 60 years of good will and cooperation with our allies around the world. We squandered every bit of sympathy the world had for us. We attacked our own precious freedoms at home. We hired other countries to do our torture for us; surely, if torture is really necessary, we should do our own dirty work and face the consequences. We have turned our armed forces into some kind of antiquated Western posse assigned to bring in Iraqi officials "dead or alive." We hold men like dogs in cages in Guantanamo Bay.
Yet Osama bin Laden remains free. Saddam Hussein remains free. And those two do not really matter. What matters is that the Taliban is regaining control of Afghanistan in the wake of the chaos we created there, and now, for the first time, al-Quaida has taken root in Iraq. Violence breeds hatred, and there does not seem to be a shortage of suicide bombers in the Middle East.
To do the things we've done in the past two years in Afghanistan, Iraq and the United States in the names of those who died in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania is an obscenity.
We need a day in which we can acknowledge that our decent, lawful and generous country has been taken away from us -- and not by men wearing turbans, but by the very men we trusted to lead us.
That is what has changed: a group of men have cynically grasped the horrors of that day to embark on an earlier plan to create a global American-cum-British empire based on our excessive addiction to oil.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has acknowledged this. He was quoted in The Times on July 17, 2002 as saying, "To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on Sept. 11."
"The overriding motivation for this smoke screen is that the U.S. and the UK are beginning to run out of secure hydrocarbon energy supplies," said Michael Meacher, the UK's environment minister from 1997 to 2003, in The Guardian recently. "By 2010 the Muslim world will control as much as 60 percent of the world's oil production, and, even more importantly, 95 percent of remaining global oil export capacity. As demand is increasing, so supply is decreasing, continually since the 1960s... The 'global war on terrorism' has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda - the U.S. role of world hegemony built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project."
Unquestionably, we in the industrialized world are dependent on oil; surely there must be better ways to secure our supplies and/or reduce our dependency besides shedding the blood of innocent people and dominating countries halfway across the globe.
Many of us will always be scarred by Sept. 11. I myself am haunted by the nightmare images of the people - people just like you, people just like me - who jumped from the top of the World Trade Center. In the latest issue of Esquire, Tom Junod writes that between 50 and 200 people jumped to their death that day.
"They jumped to escape the smoke and the fire; they jumped when the ceilings fell and the floors collapsed; they jumped just to breathe once more before they died," Junod said. "For more than an hour and a half, they streamed from the building, one after another... as if each individual required the sight of another individual jumping before mustering the courage to jump himself or herself."
Sept. 11 should be a national day of mourning so we can muster the courage to reflect on whether we, were we unfortunate enough to be trapped in the Windows on the World or the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, would have jumped. To talk about how to stop America's blundering aggression in the world. To talk about repairing the damage we have done. To think creatively about how to restore justice, mercy and rationality to the world and still remain relatively safe and economically sound.
Sept. 11 should be a national day of mourning so we can breathe once more before we die.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.