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Never Forget

Photo credit: Eric, Creative Commons Licensing.
Photo credit: Jonathan Eric, Creative Commons Licensing.

As I write this it is September 11, 2014. 13 years since the World Trade Center attacks. Of course I remember that day quite well. Hell, who doesn’t? I’m sure it was like Pearl Harbor, but maybe more real because we were able to both see and hear the events nearly as they happened.

I remember not being sure how to feel as I watched it happening. I wasn’t frightened, per se. I lived in a small town in the midwest. On the other hand, I was nervous as I knew that this was the start of huge changes in the world as I knew it.

As we’ve come up to the anniversary, I’ve noticed more and more people putting reminders to “Never Forget 9/11” on their email signatures. I assume that there’s a similar movement in the social media sphere as well — facebook memes and such.

Checking the new sites this morning and the absurdity of the idea of never forgetting smacked me in the face.

There are simply certain events in history that are by their nature unforgettable. WWI and WWII. Vietnam. Pearl Harbor. 9/11. We can’t forget them. Not because of the horror of these events, but because they are part of our collected history and the more recent our history, the more often it bubbles to the surface of the social consciousness. We also can’t forget because these events mark profound changes in society as a whole — our present has been directly shaped by these events and the changes they made to society.

We also can’t forget because of TSA. But that’s another story.

America has a horrible short term memory. For a few weeks after 9/11 things were different all around. Neighbor helped neighbor and people suddenly became way more tolerant of their fellow man — except for those who looked Arab, but, you know, they’re all evil. (No, not really, but… hyperbole.)

Then things went back to the new normal, which was pretty much the same as the old normal, but with the addition of some scary new laws on the books that allow the government all kinds of powers it didn’t used to have and a whole host of new jobs in the TSA. Who says the government can’t create jobs?

One of the headlines that struck me today, one that made me really stand up and shout that the terrorists were stupid as hell to think that destroying a couple of buildings and killing a few thousand Americans would have any real effect on our global policy or on our consciousness as a nation as a whole is this one… well, really it is just all of them. All the same headlines about the newest iPhone and about the continuing war on terror — how some giant security and oil field services firm just won another multi-billion contract in support of that war — and about Ray Rice and about Justin Bieber getting booed while stripping on stage.

I was really hoping for some headline that incorporated facebook and iPhone and Justin Bieber into one, but no such luck today. In essence, the same headlines as yesterday and the day before and the same that we will see tomorrow and the day after. Mundane. Rarely reflective of the real problems in the world. Concerned more with celebrity sex scandals than taking a real hard look at the policies that lead to the terrorist attack in the first place.

The point is, Americans are so invested in our modern Opiates for the Masses that even life shattering events like 9/11 only wake us from the torpor for a brief moment before we sink back into the business-as-usual mode where our elected officials can get away with murder and we have a continuing, unwinnable war on terror that in the eyes of many around the world make us no better than the terrorists themselves. We probably shouldn’t even get into a discussion of how many of these terrorist organizations got started with American funding and weapons.

The point I’m trying to make is that we are too passive. We think that putting an email signature that says “never forget” or posting something on whatever social media is the hot one of the day is going to have some real effect on the world. That we can fight terrorists by doing this.

Really, the terrorists, if they were smart, wouldn’t try to change the status quo. No, they’d do everything they can to get us ever more doped up with our electronic entertainments, our instant gratifications, our constant stream of information and disinformation, and then, when we are finally all zombies staring into one screen or another, they can walk right in and do whatever they want with the country.

So no, don’t forget, but be active about this not forgetting. Look into what your government is doing. Keep an eye on those who try to push agendas that don’t benefit anyone but the corporations. Keep watch of where the U.S. is sending money in the name of “security.” Question authority and question the media.  “Don’t forget” by taking part in the beautiful experiment that is democracy.


Read more from Phil B. on his blog, Multimodal Alaska Adventures.