As Northern Nevada’s community newspaper, our inclination is to discuss the lessons learned and provide insight gleaned from the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Unfortunately, the memories of the positive lessons learned—that common individuals can act with bravery and honor in the face of great adversity, that first responders should be treated with respect underpinned by support and acknowledgement of everyday courage, that Americans and American politicians can come together to act with one mind—have been undermined by 10 long years of political gamesmanship. That gamemanship and profiteering has divided this country, eroded our freedoms, and made cynics of some of the most engaged and optimistic of this country’s citizens.
But maybe in a perverse way, that’s one positive lesson that can be stated from the 10-year tragedy: Things can change on a dime if America acts as a country.
But it’s not our responsibility to be jingoistic, and it would be dishonest to claim that the positive lessons learned outweigh the schools-of-hard knocks instruction.
Perhaps the biggest lesson learned in the wake of the tragedy is that profiteers and ideologues will take advantage of any opportunity to move their philosophy forward. That includes the deaths of fellow citizens, the deaths of innocents in other countries, the sacrifice of American soldiers, and the American inclination toward patriotism.
And maybe that’s a second positive lesson that can be stated: Americans must be on constant guard against reactive legislation and rash rushes toward war.
Some of the most horrible acts committed by representatives of this country’s citizens were perpetrated in defense of “freedom.” The acts of torture in our prison camps and extraordinary rendition—the abduction and transfer of individuals to hidden compounds where they would be tortured and held without family notification or a court of justice—that our representatives supported through acceptance and deed will be a karmic scar on this country for the foreseeable future.
According to the Brown University Costs of War project, some $1.3 trillion has been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total amount spent on “security” by the U.S. government since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is $7.6 trillion. Every senior in the country could have received a dignified retirement—thus solving the unemployment crisis. Every student in the country could have received the education that every citizen in this country deserves.
We learned that there are very few politicians in Washington, D.C., who will act with the strength of their convictions or with an actual attendance to what is written in the U.S. Constitution. In the 10 years since 9/11, we learned that presidents of either party will act aggressively without a declaration of war. We learned—once again—that members of both the mainstream media and the new media will act as loudspeakers for the partisan, anti-American ideologues. We learned that liberty is always the first casualty of security. We learned that our government will absolutely manipulate the facts given to the public in order to achieve hidden agendas.
Perhaps the greatest lesson we learned is that the lessons learned in so many tragedies before those terrorist attacks of 10 years ago went unlearned.