“Hold on a minute, A-h*le,” you may counter. “It’s not a ‘celebration’. It’s a ‘commemoration’. It’s one of the few things that can bring divided America together as a nation. Mourning a shared tragedy, a loss of innocence. Expressing gratitude for the selfless courage of the first responders. Building community.”
Ah, not so much. In reality, it is a masterful manipulation of the complementary moral and intellectual weaknesses of the both extreme wings of the American body politic, a satanic appeal to our vanity and invitation to the destruction of our democratic institutions. Stupid right wingers love the 9/11 narrative because it’s a simple authoritarian parable providing clearly delineated foreign villains and glorifying nativist military authorities. Spineless left wingers love it because they get to light all their coolest scented candles around the drum circle and feel each others’ pain.
However, it’s actual primary importance, though quite obvious to anyone who actually thinks about it, is rarely explicitly articulated: the destruction of our sense of agency. The sense of individual and corporate empowerment and responsibility necessary to the successful conduct of affairs is decisively undermined by a morbid preoccupation with victimhood.
Especially so when that impotent whinging becomes the sole focus of public discourse. Remember: The United States did NOT defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The Soviet Union defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War — through the tragi-comic stupidity of insisting upon its vision of itself as the embattled last champion of a communal ideology beset from all sides by an insidious, corrupt capitalist enemy. This tunnel-vision prevented a balanced, realistic interpretation of the nature and severity of the economic and political challenges facing them. It foreclosed necessary policy options from even theoretical consideration. And it inevitably concentrated the latent energies of its ignored population to a breaking point. Even if those constituents’ ambitions have been imperfectly realized, and maybe even resulted in as much instability as progress, they undeniably achieved one goal — the destruction of the Soviet Union.
How ironic, then, that a nation of people professing to be can-do pioneers and innovators of the American frontier insist on painting themselves into a very Soviet-style ideological corner. All “American” solutions must be private sector solutions. Never mind that over-reliance upon and under-regulation of the corporate sectors recently resulted in the largest economic disaster in three generations. Never mind the obvious fact that the single common business purpose embodied int he charters of ALL corporations worldwide, profit, is essentially anti-social and undermining of the impetus toward activity and exchange for which Americans are starving. And never mind the fact that the most impressive and dynamic economic turnaround in our history was the result of progressive policy and vigorous governmental engagement. We are committed to a death spiral of stupidity.
Anyone with even a single semester of Econ 101 or one year in the private sector knows that the real challenges to successful enterprise are capital and access to markets, not taxation. If you’re netting more than $250,000 per year and you can’t get by on that, you are a pig. If, however, you find that your dream of opening a corner grocery store like the one your grandfather owned is impossible due to the simple fact that you’ll never be able to obtain the credit necessary to operate on the scale dictated by the Super-Walmarts of the world, you are simply being realistic.
But realistic observations like these count as heresy according to the current canon of acceptable American ideas. Even if they accurately identify the forces thwarting individual economic freedom, they clearly run counter to the myth that America “won” the Cold War through total absence of economic regulation and the benign wisdom of the resultant corporate elites. The true narrative isn’t one of the plucky individualist overcoming adversity through enlightened self-interest; it’s actually the peasant-like surrender of our rights as free-born American citizens.
9/11 is arguably the single most important feast in the liturgical calendar of America’s cult of impotence. Maybe you feel like a real patriot on the surface, tossing off a couple of cheap, content-free platitudes. But deep down you should probably hate yourself. Apart from displaying a disgusting indifference to the literally hundreds of thousands of lives lost and ruined in 9/11′s aftermath, and utterly failing to explain the event itself in the context of American foreign policy, celebration of 9/11 reinforces a hide-bound mythology of powerlessness. It guarantees, in fact, that America’s situation will only become worse and worse in the years to come.
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