As I commented on another forum, W. J. Astore’s powerful Bracing Views, the day the Twin Towers fell left me with memories of both horror and poignancy. The horror part is self-explanatory. The poignancy may seem surprising. I was working in an office in downtown Cleveland on 9/11. It happened to stand next to the Celebrezze Federal Building, which, in the moment, was thought to be another potential terrorist target. Therefore, our building was evacuated along with the Federal Building. It turned out, though, that most of downtown emptied out that morning. Like my fellow workers, my only thought was to get home. Naturally, the buses were packed. I had to stand at first, but eventually snagged a seat. Now, odd as it may sound, the prevailing atmosphere on city buses is silence. Most people are riding by themselves, especially during rush hour. That day was different. With shell-shocked faces, people got on the bus and then looked out the windows, as if expecting fire to rain down from the sky. Then….they talked to each other, in low voices, across the aisles and from front to back. Many were tearful; all were afraid. With each newcomer, the mass of riders willingly compressed more and more — there was an unspoken conviction that there was safety in numbers, we were stronger together. We were ALL united that day. At that early point, there was no anger, only devastating sorrow and an overwhelming, WHY? We grieved as Americans had on December 7, 1941. We felt the same sense of violation, of loss of innocence. Even then, when the ripples were still fanning out, we somehow knew life would never be the same for us. We felt an overarching sense of tenderness and concern for each other. As we got outside downtown, and people started getting off the bus, it was as if each departure was somehow a loss to the rest of us; we didn’t want to see anyone leave. It was almost personal — we were all in this together, and we were made smaller as each of our fellow travelers went out the door. We responded as we would have when a friend or relative left us: “Will you be OK going home?” “Take care.” “God bless,” patting arms and shoulders, then huddling back into ourselves. It was extraordinary, a phenomenon I’ve only seen that one time in my life. For once, everyone was accepted, each person was equal, all counted for something. If there is such a thing as Grace, it embraced all of us that day.
And now….seemingly in a blink, it’s 20 years later. We’re not only NOT valued companions anymore, traversing the same road with shared concerns, we’re actively at each other’s throats. Within a few weeks of 9/11, after the benefit concerts, after the Red Cross drives, after the memorials to heroes, the feeling of unity was gone, replaced by anger and lust for revenge on one hand, and by calls for peace and healing on the other. Instead of looking at U.S. actions that served as a flashpoint for the attack, we backed a President who stoked the fires of rage, accompanied by a cabal who saw its chance to implement long-plotted schemes of dominance and control. We know now that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan had anything to do with the attacks of 9/11 (15 of 19 hijackers were Saudis), but in the frantic rush to do something, anything, to satisfy the impulse for punishment, the country allowed itself to be caught up in the juggernaut of war. Except, of course, for the lone voice of sanity, Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California. She alone had the wisdom and the courage to vote against the authorization for what have become our endless wars. Her prescience stands as a testament to rationality in the face of headlong, out-of-control warmongering disguised as justice. Ms. Lee’s was the first voice raised in favor of reason and deliberation, but she was not alone. Tens of thousands of people nationwide eventually protested the blatant opportunism and black desires of the Bush/Cheney cohort, to no avail.
So here we are, at another perilous juncture. Lincoln said it best at Gettysburg, in November, 1863: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation [the United States], or any nation so conceived and so dedicated [‘conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal’], can long endure.” Though there has of course been no formal schism, no secession of states, no pitched physical battle across the nation, we are nevertheless collectively in a fight for our lives as we know them. The compassion of 9/11 is only a distant memory, almost a myth by now. Families are riven by the deep animosities of differing beliefs, neighborhoods are sundered by suspicion and violence. Liberty is rapidly morphing into the implacable conviction that each person is entitled to do as he or she wishes, up to the point of being forced to stop. It would appear that we’re heading for anarchy, except the bastardization of freedom is being carefully manipulated by the authoritarian puppeteers in government, the military, and corporate America. The meltdown will only go so far; then the real powers-that-be will step in and exert control. They don’t believe that all men are created equal, and they’ll make sure that their deserving selves end up on top. The nation that Lincoln praised has already vanished. Some argue that it never existed. In essence, another civil war is being fought, and the 99% will be the losers.
What does the outcome of the modern civil war portend? We’re getting a preview now, with the West on fire and the East under water. The Big Oil segment of the 1% is clawing to extract and burn every last drop of oil, no matter the cost, because those in charge of BP, Dutch Shell, Exxon, et. al., won’t be around for the aftermath. And besides, there’s money to be made from pretty much any kind of disaster. Take the pandemic: the handful at the very apex of the pyramid have profited obscenely in the last 18 months, and it’s a surety that every single one of them is vaccinated. The frontline workers at the bottom of the pile are still making below-subsistence wages and have few or no benefits. They are, in essence, the cannon fodder.
Literal war is also part of the undeclared civil war. On one side are Raytheon, Lockheed, General Dynamics, and a host of other “defense” profiteers, along with their bought-and-paid-for military leaders, who spread destruction across the globe, exert U.S. hubris everywhere, prosecute conflicts with vague missions and no exit strategies, and still fail upward. “Upward” being onto the boards of said contractors. Meanwhile, we on the “other side” have doled out trillions and have only drudgery and a thoroughly inadequate safety net to show for our involuntary contributions.
Our planet is wrecked, and nothing effective is being done about it. The many are on the losing side of a war being covertly waged against them by the few, and not even the wisest among us has a strategy to turn the tables. Freedom has become “freedumb,” and equality is a unicorn. For a single instant in time, we the people were united in caring for each other; we were willing to donate our money and our lifeblood in support of those in need. That instant was ephemeral, evaporating as quickly as it appeared. Now we’re hopelessly divided, openly fighting each other as those behind the scenes are winning the battle for overall, permanent control. We’re witnessing the most critical, profound emergency we’ve ever faced, and most of us don’t even know it. If we call 911, is there anyone on the other end who can help?