Monday, September 10, 2007

Another Tuesday in September

Tomorrow is the first Tuesday, September 11th, since the fateful one in 2001. I don't know why the Tuesday part should feel so significant. Maybe the rhythm of the week will align too closely, or the very ordinariness of the day will shake me because Tuesdays are normally when the merely unthinkable feels utterly unimaginable.

I remember hearing about the planes hitting the World Trade Center from a neighbor down my street. I was working from home as a contract writer, and I hadn't listened to the radio that morning. I'd collected my americano from the corner cafe around 11 am, and on my way home, Denise asked if I'd heard the news. Somehow, as she told me the little she knew about what had happened, it didn't sound bad. Not good, of course, and certainly surprising, but nothing prepared me for the images I was about to see when I got home and turned on the television.

Why does this anniversary make me more uneasy than the previous five since the attack? What is it about the fact that tomorrow is a Tuesday -- not a drowsy Monday, nor an anticipatory Friday, nor a contemplative Sunday -- that urges me to glance left, right, and over my shoulder?

For the last six years, people in the U.S. have held our collective breath, waiting for the pervasive sense of threat to pass. The tenor of the country seems to say, "If we just shut our eyes hard enough and think positive thoughts long enough, the nightmare will be over." In the meantime, we've slowly become accustomed to living under the mental and emotional occupation of fearmongers.

Throughout it all, I've felt infinitely more threatened by George W. Bush than by Osama Bin Laden. Airplanes crashing into buildings? From a purely probabilistic point of view, the reality is that something like that is extraordinarily unlikely to happen to me. But the effects of the Executive Branch running amok? I've already bruised my shin on that one. Even if you don't count the unexplainable clicks I heard during more than one phone conversation a few years ago, there are still the contortions that my sweetie and I have to go through just to file our taxes and provide for each other. There's paying insane amounts for my dad's medicine because he'd passed into the "donut hole" in his Medicare prescription coverage. There are the billions of dollars wasted on an illegal, immoral, impossible-to-"win" war in Iraq instead of spent on the folks I see daily who are hungry, homeless, and -- with few exceptions -- without hope.

I have a very clear mental image of Bush holding a copy of the Constitution and slowly pulling away one strip at a time by hand, much as one might do to an important document in an office without an automatic paper shredder.

"I'm doing this to keep America safe," he says as one piece rips away. Protests are drowned out by cries of, "Look how much we still have -- surely we must make sacrifices to keep America safe!"

Another tear, another round of "Either you're with us or against us." Such black-and-white thinking deserves no place in the subtle and complex arena of international relations, but anyone who points this out is smeared as a traitor.

More and more rights and protections get stripped away, each to a chorus of, "We can't let the terrorists win!" But of course, a Constitution that is torn apart, riddled with holes, and frayed at the edges delivers precisely such a victory. And not nearly enough of us -- and certainly too few elected officials in Congress -- are standing up to say, "No more."

Perhaps this Tuesday, September 11th, has me spooked because it seems that over the past six years, the unthinkable has not just become imaginable -- we've allowed it to become utterly ordinary.

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