Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The lessons

I read a post here, at Feministe, and it inspired the start of this. It was talking about people who tried to own some part of the tragedy of the attacks on September 11th.

I understand trying to make it touch you, because it seems that the tragedy would be that much worse if it could be so huge and not touch your life.

But then the essay I was writing changed. You'll see what I mean, and understand why, I suppose:

Three thousand people dead.

I understand why people want to make it part of themselves. It staggers the mind.

Three thousand. Probably ten people were having birthdays that day, their families were going to have cake and ice cream and they would be embarrassed by people singing the Happy Birthday song, but under that embarrassment would be an understanding of the affection behind it. And still more would have been attending birthday parties, and affectionately embarrassing their friends, lovers, or family members.

There was probably someone, at least one, who felt that he, or she, had found The One. That night, after dinner, and some wine, the answer to "do you have to go home?" would have been "no", and they would have made love most of the night... even when they weren't having sex.

There were people who had dreamed huge dreams, dreams they knew would never come true, but only because the dreams were too big, too impossible... not because they'd have their lives brutally ripped away that very day.

And there were people whose biggest dreams might have been something smaller, and less earthshaking, like seeing the Boston Red Sox finally winning the World Series... a life doesn't have to be filled with big, impossible, or earthshaking dreams, to be valuable and wonderful.

There were people fighting with loved ones, who, in a few days, would have realized that nothing is more important than that love... certainly not a petty squabble. There would have been a reconciliation, but the chance was stolen. On the other side, there were people whose last words to their loved ones were "I love you", and it was sincere, and understood.

There were people who had had a chance to do what they'd always wanted, and those who were still finding what they wanted, and those who were just about to take the first steps towards their desires.

And if it had been a natural disaster, or some tragic accident, it could be easier to deal with, but it wasn't. It was done by men who were perfectly willing to cause that much suffering. They just didn't care.

What's worse, the people in the towers, end even the people in the Pentagon, didn't know what was going on, or why these terrible things were happening, and they'd never know. The last minutes of their lives would not only have been filled with fear and pain, but with an unanswered questions: How could anyone be willing to do this? And why?

I want justice for that. Some people want more; they want revenge. Some want to find everyone who was involved and kill those people in the most torturous manner possible, and I understand that. I don't like it, but trust me, I understand it. And if I knew the people who were involved who are still walking free had any conception of how much suffering they caused, and the crushing weight of guilt hasn't broken them, I'd be tempted to let the revenge-seekers have their way.

But I wouldn't give in to that temptation, not if it was under my control. I am filled with fury, and rage, at what they've done, but I will not let them make me hate. I would insist on justice, and not let their evil actions corrupt me in the slightest.

The terrorists' actions can fill me with fury, but they can't make me forswear justice; they can't blind me to the suffering of others; they will not make me hate.

Which brings us to Iraq.

More than ten times as many people have died in Iraq as a result of our invasion. People have died on their birthdays; on the days they planned to connsumate their love; with big, impossible dreams in their head, and smaller, less eartshaking ones. People with relationships to mend, and solid relationship to celebrate; people living their dreams, learning their dreams, or chasing their dreams.

If it had been some natural disaster, or some tragic accident, it would be easier to deal with, but it wasn't. It was done on the orders of men who didn't care about the suffering they would cause.

We were told that Saddam presented a threat... yet we knew that his military defeat would be swift and certain.

We were told he had stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, and a nuclear program, when the people making the claim knew that there were serious questions about the intelligence.

We were told that we had to go after Iraq after 9/11, by people who knew that Saddam had no ties to, nor any working relationship with, al Qaida.

In the past few days, I've seen some folks on rightwing blogs saying that we liberals don't understand, that we haven't learned the lessons, and similar things.

Well, the attacks hammered home how every person is precious, how no one deserves to have their life cut brutally short by people who simply don't care about what happens to them. It drove home what a terrible thing it must be to be facing certain death, not knowing how or why such terrible things were happening.

And the attacks demonstrated that hatred was now a powerful and deadly weapon.

Tens of thousands if innocent people dead, but they happened in dribs and drabs, over months instead of all in a single day and so few people mourned... least of all, those who talked most loudly about "the lessons of September 11th".

How could I not despise such a war? How could I not oppose such a war with my entire heart, mind, and spirit? The terrorists showed me hatred; I rejected it. And thus, I can not support such a needless, worthless war.

Because I remember September 11th.

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