Ten years later is there anything to say that’s more insightful or interesting than the things we said on that day? I don’t thing there is. I feel badly for all of the families who experienced loss on that day. I feel badly that this country lost a bit of its innocence. I feel badly that there are children who are told they are different because one or two of their parents died on that day. But I don’t feel badly for America.
This country has experienced great privilege: relative stability, easy access to resources, and isolation from global threats. Relatively few American lives have been lost to causes natural or man-made in recent decades, with the exception of the Vietnam War in which almost sixty thousand Americans gave their lives. I think that number makes me feel like it’s important to put the attacks on 9/11 into perspective.
I love my country. I cry on the 4th of July when I see the fireworks and hear the patriotic music. But I’m a man of reason. I’m a man of numbers. On that day, only 7% as many Americans died as were killed in automotive accidents that year. It may seem callous to make a comparison like that, but to me it’s extremely significant that 14 times as many families were torn apart by car accidents as were impacted directly by the attacks on 9/11. Where is the uproar about car accidents? Why doesn’t someone pat me down when I get behind the wheel?
According to the CDC, in 2001, the rate of people killed by diseases of the heart in the United States was more than two-hundred times as high as the number of people killed on 9/11. What’s more depressing is that ten times as many people took their own lives that year as those whose lives were taken by terrorists. Why don’t these two figures result in massive nation-wide memorial services? Why do charities have to struggle to raise money to fight these simple things, when the government has waged a trillion-dollar war against terrorism abroad as a result of the events of 9/11?
Could we have cured cancer or AIDS with that money? Could we have opened schools world-wide to help fight ignorance, prejudice, and bigotry? Could we have killed-off the notion that men and women aren’t equals, and that the color of your skin is an important factor in your position in life? Could we have preserved countless acres of wilderness for posterity, or invested in new forms of clean energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels? Could we have redesigned cities to create jobs, clean the air, and protect us from natural disasters? The obvious answer to all of those questions is yes. So why instead do we funnel our hard-earned money into the social, environmental, religious, economic and political black-hole that has become of the Middle-East?
I don’t want the answer to that question. I don’t want people to ignore 9/11 or feel like it wasn’t an important day. I don’t want people to forget the loved-ones they lost on that day. I want people to put it into perspective how much life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in America has changed since we decided that the solution to all of our problems lay in fighting against an elusive, nay, philosophical enemy in lands far from our own. End the war instantly? No. Ridiculous. Admit that these conflicts are contrived and perhaps even absurd? I think it might be time.
I would implore our leaders to please look at yourself in the mirror and admit that this entire situation has amounted to blunder on top of blunder and that we’re better than this. On the tenth anniversary of the attacks on September 11th, 2001, we should finally realize that we’ve gone about our lives regardless of the outcome of these conflicts and that it’s time to let it go. We’ve grieved long enough. We won’t forget, but we owe it to everyone lost on that day, and in that year, to move on and fix this country. We owe it to them to stop using 9/11 as an excuse to be mediocre. Suck it up America.