As the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it seems a good time to take a look back. As I do this, however, I don't have quite the same perspective as, for example, USA Today, which has been running columns over the past several days describing how the victims' families have coped since the attacks. Not that the victims of 9/11 aren't important, but if you think of 9/11 and the most gut-wrenching thing that comes to mind is a body count and a mourning widow, you need to check your pulse.
Others have been writing of the need for remembering the attacks and drawing closer to God and country as a result. It seems to go without saying that once again supporting the U.S. government's war in Iraq would be a part of that. No doubt many will consider this the opportune time to replace their faded yellow ribbons with shiny new ones made in China.
I can't help but ask, why are we Americans? Why, given the crimes of 9/11 should indicate to everyone that persons living in this globalized society are closer than they appear, do we still partition ourselves from the rest of the world with this nationalism? If the goal of our remembrance were preventing further violence, why would we subscribe to an ideology so dangerous?
Author and activist Arundhati Roy said that, "Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use, first to shrink wrap people's brains, and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead." There are many things we simply cannot see because of our star-spangled blinders.
One is there have been many events on the magnitude of September 11 all over the world, many caused by the United States. On Sept. 11, 1973, the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was killed in a CIA backed coup. Thousands of innocent Chileans died as a result. On September 11, 1990, President George H.W. Bush announced before Congress his intention to invade Iraq. In excess of a hundred thousand innocent Iraqis died in the humanitarian disaster that followed.
So why do we stand and salute the flag on 9/11, mourning America as victim and victor? It's not an anti-American sentiment. You don't have to hate America to question the wisdom of near fascist dedication to one's nation. You don't have to hate America to know that America has been guilty of the same crimes we still mourn.
Noam Chomsky reports the United States is the only country that has both been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism (in Nicaragua during the Regan administration) and has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for all countries to observe international law. In a lecture on terrorism given one month after 9/11, he stated, "The world looks very different depending on whether you are holding the lash or whether you are being whipped by it for hundreds of years," yet we Americans seem to have forgotten this.
Perhaps 9/11 is important because it made insular Americans realize we are not alone in the world; or perhaps 9/11 is important simply because it's the first time victims of U.S. imperialism shot back with force and conviction. So when you remember our 9/11 this year, remember theirs as well.
Send comments to Jason Lamb at email@example.com.