The Culture of Fear cover (audio edition), September 10, 2011. (Source/http://betterworldbooks.com).
It’s been a decade since the largest American tragedy since World War II in 9/11 in New York, Washington, DC and central Pennsylvania. And we’ve spent much of the past week in remembrance of this event, what we’ve gained and what we’ve lost as a society since that tragic Tuesday. Cutting through all of the chatter and bullcrap in the run-up to 9/11 the last few weeks has been a part-time job, especially since most of it is wrapped in one of our nation’s best-selling products — fear.
Second plane, Twin Towers, 9/11, 9:03 am, courtesy of Today Show. (Source/http://en.wikipedia.org).
But a few things are clear. One is that we as a nation have spent the past ten years in constant fear, as if the Cold War wasn’t enough for anyone born before ’74. We wasted trillions of dollars on wars that have done more harm than good for us at home and abroad, ruining the economy, shredding the social welfare state and leaving us with curtailed civil liberties. Most of all, we’ve left ourselves in constant denial of our own fear, xenophobia, racism and religious intolerance, making America look even more imperialistic — if that seemed at all possible in ’01 — then we did a decade ago.
Of all the half-truths and total lies we’ve been told — and told ourselves — over the past ten years is how “the nation came together” in the first few months after the attacks. Really? In a parallel universe, maybe. I had the unfortunate experience of riding a Greyhound bus from Atlanta to Washington, DC two days after the attacks. My one-day business trip became three days, with flights suspended, rental cars gone and trains booked ten days out. Two guys, one White, one Black, “came together” on the back of the bus to insult and threaten a Sikh, all because he had the nerve to wear a turban. I had to get between the two dumb asses and the poor Sikh man to tell them that he wasn’t Arab or Muslim. “What difference does it make,” one of the dumb asses said, implying that I didn’t love America because I wasn’t ready to kill the “m-fs,” as he put it.
We came together, alright. To persecute Arab Americans, Muslims, Sikhs and South Asians and anyone else
They Hate Us For Our Freedom (2008), Claire Fontaine, Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, December 11, 2008. (Source/http://language.cont3xt.net).
who looked like a potential terrorist. Even now, people like Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh can agree that because some Arab Muslims are terrorists, that we should suspect the millions here in the US and the half a billion in the Middle East. This makes the Red Scare look like a high school lunchroom fight by comparison.
This is why the reference to Family Feud reference is so appropriate, especially with good-old Brit Richard “Dickie” Dawson as the host from ’76 to ’85. It was a show full of not-so-learned people giving rather folksy answers to questions big and small. I loved the part where one family would get together after a first or second strike, and someone would come up with an answer everyone in the group sounded like it was correct. Then they’d start clapping and yelling, “Good answer! Good answer!” before the buzzer would sound and the audience would say, “Uhhhhhhhh!”
That, and the hillbilly theme music for the show, and Dawson prancing around the set while kissing all of the female contestants, allegedly to wish them luck, were all thing I enjoyed about Family Feud. The ’70s were so grand!
So in the spirit of Family Feud, I’ve spliced myself as various characters into an episode from ’81. The topic is about naming the people to blame for our current American mess, at home and abroad. I hope that it’s funny and goofy.
But I also hope that it’s food for thought. For in the end, we are all to blame. For being so entitled and privileged, for worshiping the US dollar and the people who have billions of them. For refusing to believe that America, as great a country as it is, screws up on the international stage, that our politicians have put our nation in a precarious position militarily and economically. For being so willing to buy the idea that the Rapture is upon us, but not the idea that climate change is real and that we can do something about it. For acting as if ours is a Christian nation, despite the fact that Christians, Jews, agnostics, atheists, and yes, Muslims were all part of America’s founding.
I hope that we can somehow find a way to outgrow our petty, stupid, idiotic differences around race, religion and politics and put down the class and corporate warfare against the average person. But our lust for wealth and constant feuding may be too much to overcome. Did those twenty Saudi terrorists win after all? Only if we let denial and fear — and those in power who rely on us voting out of both — lead us over a cliff.