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Taking Stock After 9/11

Today is September 11 or as often nominated 9/11. There are many posts and notices to Never Forget on the web, on television and other media, this 17th Anniversary. While I think we should remember those actions that infamous day (to borrow from FDR), I think we should also take stock since that day.

The purpose of the 9/11 attacks has been debated. Admittedly, it was an act of terrorism; the question is why. Was it to force a change in United States policy in the Middle East? Was it to reduce support for or undermine the government of Israel? Or was there some other motive as has been suggested elsewhere?

Seventeen years later, those motives seem irrelevant to today's culture. What remains relevant is the response which is ongoing. First, "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001" commonly referred to as the USA PATRIOT ACT was passed and signed into law in less than 45 days. It survived until 2015 and was amended with the passage of the USA Freedom Act which restored much of what was lost in the "sunset" provision of the PATRIOT Act. Most notably the surveillance provisions of both of these acts permit extensive intrusion in to the personal life of average American citizens. This includes banking information disclosures to the government, known as the Bank Secrecy Act. The Freedom Act has placed a semi-buffer in place which requires a warrant on some telephone call surveillance, but that is a minimal restraint.

In the last seventeen years we have seen a militarization of civilian police departments unheard of before 9/11. At last checking the government has some 13,000 MRAPs to be delivered to more than 750 civilian local law enforcement agencies. The MRAP is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle. Canadian County Oklahoma obtained one of these behemoths. The vehicle is a combat vehicle it can weigh 36,000 pounds, which most civilian streets are not designed to support. I have yet to traverse a mine field or encounter an IED in Canadian County. Also available through the 1033 program are aircraft such as the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter. All of this can be quite daunting. A greatly militarized civilian police force brought about in response to a foreign assault.

While the attack was despicable and not to be taken lightly, maybe our internal response has been worse.

At this time in our culture where wrapping one's self in the flag has become de rigueur. Perhaps we should step back, take a breath and look at what we are.

The United States is founded on certain principles of equality, justice and keeping the government in check. (Please note the present tense IS not the past tense WAS usage.) A nationalist is one who says I love my country, don't say anything bad about it. A patriot says I love my country, how can I make it better. Rather than worrying about who is kneeling, we need to understand why there is a need to kneel and who is demagoging the issue with false narratives. Why open season on police stopped black men seems okay. Why a man can be shot in his own home, because shoot first and explain later has become far too common. Why a young black man can be removed from a car because the front seat was occupied by two older white women and he was a suspected "carjacker". Why the government surveils its citizens in a manner reminiscent of regimes we have vanquished in the past.

These seemingly unrelated events are all tied to a single thread which has grown since 9/11 and that is the thread of fear. We have not had a single known episode remotely approaching the scale of 9/11 in the intervening 17 years. Yet, we have moved further and further as a society down that slippery slope of fear and distrust. Unscrupulous politicians have milked it for their own aggrandizement and made it permissible for misanthropes to dislike, or hate, blacks, Hispanics, or Muslims. Many were quick to blame Islam for 9/11 but it was their dislike for the religion which mirrored the dislike held by the terrorists themselves which was to blame. People not a religion, race or culture. When the number of white police shooting victims equals the number of black police shooting victims then there will be a white lives matter campaign and the issue will be crystallized. There are too many unnecessary police shootings.

9/11 is an important date. It is the date that too many decided that real freedom was too dangerous for us to continue. We pay lip service and want to hang it on the wall to revere but in practice well that seems a different story.