There is much one can say about a society as to how it responds to an attack such as 9/11 and how it responds to the kind of economic and financial crises that we are seeing today. Both have had and are having a deep impact on our lives and our country.
Key to understanding this country’s character and its fundamental values and wisdom is what it does when it experiences a great catastrophe. And the same is true also when it experiences an economic and social “catastrophe.”
Although most would not want to draw that analogy or relationship, I believe it is necessary in order to fully understand our society and the ideas and forces that move our nation. Frankly, one’s emotions and thoughts have to go back not just to that day 10 years ago, but also to the changes we have seen since then. We need to know that we are responding not just to the consequences of 9/11, but also to the economic disaster we are seeing today.
Both have taken a toll in terms of lives lost or harmed and in terms of the very character of our nation, especially our willingness to lift up those who have been harmed and to safeguard and protect those who are still in harm’s way. Both 9/11 and the financial debacle were and are “attacks” on our values, our democracy, and our sense of caring for others. We did a lot of wrong things to fight terrorism including torture and “rendition” which undermined our constitution and justice system and got us into a costly, disastrous war that we should not have fought.
How our nation and its leadership responded or did not respond to both tragedies is critical to whether we can learn from calamity and adversity. Have we grown through adversity or have we been diminished by our responses? Have we become better than our attackers and have we learned to be less greedy and less filled with indifference to the lives of others?
Frankly, despite all the nice words that have been spoken on this last 10th anniversary and all the rhetoric our political leaders have used to speak about the ruined lives of those affected by the economic disaster – caused, with malice aforethought, by our avaricious financial institutions and their political handmaidens – have we really learned or been ennobled as a society?
It is not who will defend us from our “foreign enemies” but who will defend us from our domestic “enemies,” those who would plunder our democracy for the benefit of the very rich and take our liberties, system of justice, or the rights granted by our Constitution.
How indeed have we become more unified if we have crass politicians and enormous, plunderous business executives willing to take away the jobs, wages, and retirement of our “first responders” at home and abroad, to make sure their taxes stay unconscionably low?
Why has our society decided to dismiss our firefighters, police, teachers of our children, our diplomats and armed forces serving in harm’s way around the world, our medical and social workers, and those that protect our environment, food, and work safety, just to advance their narrow agendas of self-interest?
In the face of two cataclysmic experiences, who will “defend” America both from those who might attack it in the future and those who would use the attack as justification for undermining our liberties, laws and sense of social justice in the name of a crisis?
We will be seeing in the coming months the test of how we understand our plight and challenges, but also of our generosity of spirit, and ability to marshal our enormous resources towards rebuilding America and once again being the leader of a prosperous, secure, and just world rather than part of a decrepit malicious plan to “depreciate” our economy, bring down our poor and middle classes even more, and perpetuate the power of the greedy and super rich.
By Harry C. Blaney III.