Five Years In

ACLU Patriot Act Poster[This was originally posted in 2006 on my LiveJournal]

I’ve spent the last two days more or less avoiding the normal network channels and all the specials they’re running. Tonight, I finally gave in and kept the TV on to watch what our Commander in Chief had to say about this anniversary. Partially, I did it to see how he would (again) twist the tragedy to his agenda. Mostly I did it so I wouldn’t miss the beginning of the show that came on after it.

Five years ago I was working for a local weekly paper in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Just under two hours from the heart of New York City. Our office was in a location with bad radio reception and we had no cable TV running to the building at that point. With all the major news website unavailable, I got most of my information that day from cNET.com and from people running from our office to a nearby home to watch stuff on CNN.

It wasn’t until many hours after the fact that I saw the first video of the towers collapsing. By then, the initial shock had worn off and I had accepted the tragedy. It was terrible, but it was just pictures on a screen. A record of something that had happened and couldn’t be changed.

A lot of people didn’t reach that point for a very long time. Many people, it seems, still have not reached that point of acceptance of the past as immutable.

And many of those currently in power seem to be more than happy to capitalize on that still open wound.

In the months that followed that mid-September Tuesday morning massive government action was taken. Plans and program were put in motion–some of which we are just learning about officially now–that would quickly change the face of the government. Plans and programs that would not only cut deeply into the freedoms guarantied by our Constitution, but would do so in the name of safety and security.

All the while talking heads squawked on about how we were living in a new world and how things would never be the same. How we weren’t safe anymore and how we were never really safe. The public ate it up. The media ate it up, spit it back out and ate it up again.

We entered a war. Our military might crossed the border into Afghanistan, hot on the trail of Al Queda, the organization responsible for (or at least the one that had taken responsibility for) the attacks. We made quick work of dismantling an oppressive government we had put in place decades earlier when we were fighting another foe. The leaders still eluded us–and the “big one” still does today–and the organization splintered and went underground.

We entered another war. This one build on misinformation, disinformation, outright lies and an often implied (and sometimes out right said) connection to those grandly horrible attacks against our cities. Our war machines, still warm from the Afghan deserts, rolled to Iraq and toppled another oppressive regime–not one we had put in place, but one we had been content enough to allow to commit near genocide in the past. We declared “mission accomplished” and have since seen more death and destruction than during the actual war.

Our President uses The War on Terror to justify secret surveillance operations, secret prisons, blatant violations of Constitutional law and “expedited” legal proceedings. He has standing proudly behind him a cadre of supporters in both the military and commercial complexes (we were warned of this by President Eisenhower). His speechwriters and spin men are the best in the business and, especially in the early days of panic and fear, manipulated public opinion with a Machiavellian skill that quickly turned our government process more opaque than it has ever been before.

Today, five years in, the public opinion of this country’s oppressive regime is eroding. Still, there are strong and powerful forces supporting the work it does–the work against the basic tenets of this country. In the name of Nationalism and under the banner of “Our Own Good” the powers that be have continued to slice away at the checks and balances that have kept the governed safe from the government. We are starting to wise up–to speak out as an appalled whole–but we are coming together late in the game.

We must all rally against that which is definitely not in our best interest. We are an intelligent and educated population (though, it seems, less so now than we were a half-decade ago). We must demand a return of transparency to our government. We must require the balances to be set back in place to prevent us from having a king.

It may not yet be too late to fix what we have let become broken.

It may not yet be too late to truly honor those who died in fire, steel and concrete five years ago.

For that is what we should do–honor them. Honor their unwilling and unsuspecting sacrifice. They died so others could make a statement. A statement We The People chose to respond to in a way that fundamentally changed our nation.

Vengeance is a hollow victory that consumes more than it saves. And that, at best, is what we have been pursuing. At worst, we have all been played for fools by power hungry individuals and shadowy groups that seek to maintain and increase their holdings at any cost. The Truth–for all it matters–lies somewhere between.

I have no greater fear of terrorism than I did six years ago. What I fear now–and what I have come to fear more and more each year for the past five–is my own government. I fear that my speech will label me an enemy of the State. I fear that in the heat of a panic I will become an accidental target of my own protectors. I fear that I will not be able to recognize my own country in another five years.

I fear that we have not opened our eyes soon enough to realize how much we have given up.

About Kier

I've been on the web since about 1994. I have a background in a lot of things, including a five year stint as a journalist and over a decade of helping people get their message out to the world.

I write on a number of subjects--everything from relationships to personal development to politics and every day life. I hope you get something worthwhile out of it.

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