It’s that day again. Seven years ago a bunch of guys deluded with fantasies of an invisible sky fairy promising them virgins in Heaven flew planes full of innocent Americans into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and an empty field. Everyone on the planes died along with over 3,000 other people in New York and Washington D.C.. But you don’t need me to recount the story. Chances are you’re already very familiar with the events that took place. It’s not like we Americans have let it stray far from our minds much since that day and we only get more obsessive about it on the day’s anniversary. We’ve politicized it, used it as rationalization for all kinds of things we never would’ve considered before, hid behind it to shield us from the criticisms we got for abandoning some of our most cherished ideals, and turned it into a big stick that we’ve used to bludgeon others into doing what we want in the name of fighting terrorism. For the Republicans in particular it’s been one hell of a windfall because not only can they use it to manipulate people with fear, but they can work up a good mock outrage when someone calls them on it.
We like to talk a lot about how we haven’t let the terrorists win, but it’s clear looking back over the past seven years that the damage they inflicted on this country went well beyond just the physical destruction of life and property on that September morning. We started off in the aftermath on a positive footing by coming together as a nation in a way not seen since we got involved in World War II. The decision to invade Afghanistan was almost universally supported not just by Americans, but by most of the rest of the world. President Bush enjoyed what was probably his highest personal approval ratings of his career and the world was not only sympathetic to our cause, but ready to join the fight. And then it all started to go wrong. Our leaders decided it was high time they made an example out of someone in the Middle East and were arrogant enough to think that they could force a regime change onto a country that they honestly believed would reward them with adoration and become a shining beacon spreading democracy to the rest of the region. They also saw an unprecedented opportunity to expand their power to new heights under the guise of National Security and they ran with it as far and as fast as they could. The damage to our civil liberties and freedoms caused by a power-hungry administration are an indirect result of the actions of those terrorists seven years ago and it has far reaching implications not just for Americans, but for the rest of the world. Most of the people sitting in indefinite detention in Guantanamo aren’t Americans, but that hasn’t saved them from the abuse of power of this administration. Perhaps the terrorists didn’t achieve total victory, America still exists after all, but they achieved far more of their aims than we like to admit. And the worst part of it all is that we helped them to achieve those goals.
As for my own viewpoint, when I look back on that day I can’t help but put part of the blame on religion for the events that occurred. President Bush kept saying that we weren’t waging a religious war, but it’s clear that the terrorists were. It’s yet another in a long line of examples of what happens when people take their belief in books about Gods as the literal truth. While I’m sure we’d find other reasons to fight wars if all religions were to die out tomorrow, I can’t help to think that events such as 9/11 would become all but impossible if they did. In the end it’s hard to say what upsets me more: the fact that some people used their belief in God to motive themselves to commit mass murder or what America has done to itself out of fear and paranoia since that day.