Trout Fisting In America #33 – 9/11

However you want to look at it, by any objective standard you want to use, the events of September 11, 2001 were an unqualified success.

For Al-Qaeda of course. The US may not have been destroyed on 9/11, but it’s been steadily destroying itself ever since. The events of September 11th changed this country: some days it feels like forever. It’s a global catastrophe that continues to unfold.

Before we get started, I know all of this stuff already existed before 9/11 in some form or another. But everything became more accelerated & amplified, more amphetamined & angered, after the attacks and there’s no sign of the insanity slowing down anytime soon.

—9/11 turned the US into a surveillance police state.
—9/11 turned the US into a warmongering nation that defies international law and kills who it wants.
—9/11 turned the US population against each other. If a fellow American disagreed w/a political policy—whether it be left or right, liberal or conservative—we began seeing them as a threat to America, as less American than you. Because the very existence of America (if not ‘western civilization’) was now at stake, electing the ‘wrong’ leader, passing the ‘wrong law,’ threatened—in theory—the very existence of our nation. All politics became a matter of life & death because for all we knew politics was life & death. (And let the record show that the people living in NYC vote overwhelmingly democrat.)
—9/11 militarized the police. It militarized the culture. It narrowed the boundaries of acceptable public speech, under the auspices of good taste, under the auspices of patriotism.
—9/11, through heightened airport security measures, turned every plane flight into a state-sponsored act of intimidation, a demonstration of power.
—9/11 turned America—as a concept, as a life lived within its borders—both murderous & suicidal. And so aren’t all of us, in a sense, now terrorists. We terrorize each other. We drive cars into each other. America has never been more armed, more violent, more ready to explode.

But the violence is just a product of our fear. We live in Elsinore now. We look over our shoulders before speaking. We fear our neighbors. Sometimes we even fear ourselves. This is what it means to live in a state of terror. We have been terrorized. The terror continues like a virus running amuck. We murder innocent people in foreign countries, and we commit murder on each other here at home. Because in 2017, incarceration & mass murder are the only things left that politicians left that this country can do even remotely well.

It was the collapse of the towers, their vertical implosion, that captured our imaginations. More than the impact of the planes, and more than the Pentagon attack, which is talked about now as a mere footnote, the destruction of the World Trade Center was a symbolic destruction. And because the US is as much a nation of symbols as anything else, the collapse of the towers—representative of hegemony & corporate order—shook us to our core. Our symbols are essentially all we have that bind us together, that make us Americans. A couple of founding documents, some founding fathers, and a handful of patriotic songs: that is what it means to be an American. The attack created a void at the heart of US life, a fracture.

And it only took less than a couple of hours. Unless you count the years they spent living among us. And maybe it’s that—that the attackers spent time living here among us. They used the banal stupidity of everyday American life as camouflage. that it was easy, as the details of the story emerged, to wonder if the attacks could have been prevented, if only we had been more vigilant, if only someone had done something. Our present day xenophobia, embodied by the rise of Trump, a rise fuelled by white supremacy & pointlessly cruel immigration policies—policies so cruel that cruelty is their only reason for existing—is unimaginable without the events of 9/11.

On 9/11, THE 9/11, I was working at a Marriott hotel next to MIT while I went to college. The planes had taken off from Boston. The attackers had stayed in a hotel (my memory says they stayed at the Marriott in Copley Square but I can’t find any evidence to support this). If they’d been staying at my hotel, would I have noticed something suspicious? Or would I have made friendly small talk, gone out of my way to make them feel comfortable? Half this country sees multiculturalism as, at best, naive. At its worst, they see it as enabling terrorists. For many people on the US right, multiculturalism means putting every American life in danger. And yeah, they’re wrong/misguided/etc. but they aren’t insane. They are responding to a real event. They are responding the way some in power want them to, because it’s easy to control people, to influence the way they vote and therefore gain power, when they’re afraid. And that’s something that’s been exploited by both parties in the ensuing fallout of 9/11.

We talk a lot about the horror of dying in the Twin Towers; we don’t talk much about the horror of working in them day after day before the attacks. We had been dreaming of the moment for years, in our movies, in our popular culture. The money shot in Independence Day isn’t Will Smith blowing up the aliens, it’s the aliens blowing up the White House. How could people stand there and call the events an unimaginable tragedy when we’d been making so many movies about it for the past decade. Hell, Condoleeza Rice, George Bush, et, al. received memos saying not only that it was possible, that Bin Laden was determined to do it.

Let me be clear: there was no conspiracy. There may, however, have been a temporary paralysis, a false feeling of invincibility, maybe even a weird subconscious anxiety, at being the world’s superpower. Hegemony does not occur naturally in nature, or in human psyches.

And so since 9/11 we have been constantly under attack. Only we’re the ones doing the attacking, and there are getting to be fewer and fewer places for anyone to hide. To most Americans, the only choice left in this nation, a nation founded in theory on the freedom to choose, is the choice between murder or suicide. Some, much like Al-Qaeda did 16 years ago, even decide to choose both.

Trout Fisting In America appears here every Tuesday (sometimes even more frequently!). We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. You can check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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