1 hour ago
Sunday, September 14, 2008
How We're Destroying Ourselves: A Post of Humor and Mirth
My college paper ran a cover story three days ago, on the seventh anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks and subsequent destruction, titled "We Will Never Forget." I realized the intended heartwarming nature of the message, but I found it disheartening. (And it's not just the fact that it's a lazy and shiftless excuse for a cover story, a fact we won't even get into here.)
9/11 was a tragedy, yes, as is any incident of human barbarism toward others (not to mention the 3,000 some-odd deaths incurred by the 19 hijackers). But much of the tragedy of 9/11 stems from what we did afterward rather than from the attacks themselves.
After all, deaths aren't the sole measure of tragedy. In the year 2001 in the United States 16,242 died from emphysema, 42,443 from automobile accidents and 157,400 from lung cancer alone (that last number was built from projections but the specific count isn't important).
And to judge from the reactions of our leaders, economic destruction doesn't dictate whether something is tragedy. Nor is destruction of U.S. land and property a shame as long as it doesn't happen in a major economic center.
And the bills that we've signed into law over the last few years have proven that man's inhumanity to man isn't such a big deal, as long as we're being barbaric to the right people. Nor is abduction without charges or due process something to cry over. And the terrorists' "assault on our freedoms?" It's nothing compared to what we're already doing to ourselves (link1) (link2) (link3). And let's not worry about the right of an honest American to feel secure in their daily actions, ok?
The Trade Center attacks have given us license to grant the already powerful among us more power, destroy our checks and balances, hate those who are different from us who we won't even bother to try to understand, bash two countries to the ground, continue to occupy them with soldiers and private firms (and are we doing anything but teaching Iraqis that the big and powerful will always run things?), detain more people without warrants, tread on the Bill of Rights and otherwise muck up our own nation.
This started out as a funny sort of satirical post. I was going to propose that we adopt a new scale of measurement for foreign disasters and deaths, one that measures them in American lives so that we could feel honest in acting the way we do regarding foreign tragedy and domestic tragedy that doesn't involve Muslims. For example, twenty times as many people died in the Sichuan earthquake of China four months ago than on 9/11/01. Seventy-six times as many died in the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and subsequent tsunami than 9/11. The idea was that we could muster up an actual equation to figure out just how much we should care about such destruction. Factoring in proximity, ethnicity, government type of affected country and damage to U.S. interests, for example, we might estimate that the Indonesian tsunami cost the world the equivalent of about 300 American lives. That's American Life Units, or A.L.U.'s for short. If we decided that the Sichuan earthquake only cost the world about 30 A.L.U.'s, for example, we could consider ourselves intellectually honest for still urging people to remember the 3,000 A.L.U.'s lost in the attacks of 9/11 seven years ago.
All of a sudden I decided it wasn't funny anymore. Can you tell why? Look - all of you who think that American lives and interests are more important than anybody else's had better think about what's happened in our country as a result of 9/11. And that's something we'd better not forget.
EDIT: Again, it's not the fact that atrocities have happened in Iraq (isolated individuals will sometimes do terrible things when you give them a gun), but the absolute lack of responsibility being taken in response which causes more of these things to happen. Excuses, lies and trigger-happy mercenaries don't spread freedom.