Dialing 9-1-1

Some of us are tired of rehashing September 11, 2001.  “It’s been more than a decade,” some say, “why can’t you just let it go?”

There are, after all, so many things to be concerned about.  People die every day, and in a country of nearly 300 million souls, even the death of 3,000 at once subsides quickly into the statistical noise. On a planet of six billion, it hardly makes a ripple in the Force. Still, a moment of silence hardly seems too much to ask for the hijacking heard ’round the world…

We won’t let it go by unremembered, of course. We looked for our enemies, and we smote them in their homes. We looked to our allies — fewer than hoped — with gratitude. We looked everywhere but inward.

Our political gut checks, the election seasons that once saw rhetoric put to the purpose of marketing affirmative notions, somehow degenerated into hate and discontent, fear and blame. It’s become less important that we fix our problems than that we affix the blame for them. The Others did it.

It was those Democrats, tax-and-spend war-whimpering bleeding hearts, who stole what was ours and gave it to the niggers, tax-free. It was those Republicans, chicken hawk war profiteers and the looters of the company store, who drained our lockbox and scurried off to the Cayman Islands with their loot. It was those coyote Mexicans, cheating by working hard and not complaining — make it illegal to even be a Mexican!  It was those ignoramus rednecks toting guns to church.  It was pencilneck computer nerds.  It was overpaid schoolteachers, violent cops, zorked out ravers, Muslims in Manhattan…

I shouted out

who killed the Kennedys

when after all

it was you and me

(Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil)

It was, as always, those kids and their shitty music. There’s nothing more Other than a teenager…

It’s not surprising that we don’t want to hear about 9/11 anymore. After a decade of distant wars, we’ve got war fatigue. We’ve got compassion fatigue, charity fatigue, troop suicide fatigue… we’ve even got patriotism fatigue.

It’s become unfashionable to call oneself a patriot in this country. The word “patriotism” has come to a low fate. It’s associated primarily with the mindless, reflexive jingo of NASCAR, the Superbowl, and the fat-assed bellyaching of rich white guys who can never have so much that it stops them resenting people who have less. Hardline Democrats, so afraid to stand up as Americans that they openly advocate sewing maple leaves onto travel bags in order to pass as Canadian, seem incapable of making common cause with the dirty-shirted rednecks who grow their food. Republicans see voting, military service, and manufacturing as morally and functionally equivalent: better bought (for a cut-rate price) than participated in. The only quotation anyone remembers about patriotism is Dr. Johnson’s angry dismissal of it as the last refuge of a scoundrel.

A wise man once observed that if you can’t speak well of your boss, you should probably work somewhere else. Perhaps the same generally applies to civics.

If you can’t be bothered to vote, don’t bitch about political outcomes. If you can’t argue civilly with your fellow citizens, perhaps you don’t deserve them as neighbors. If you won’t report for military duty, don’t ever root for war. If you don’t like your district’s educational outcomes, go volunteer at the school. If you’re suspicious of what those Muslims are muttering in their mosque, invite them to your synagogue and get to know them.

Get some skin in the game. Put your money where your mouth is. Put up or shut up.

These things I know: if you blame teachers for poor education, or police for street violence, or suicidal soldiers for the bloody horror that is war, or po’ folks for ghetto crimes, or pretty women for rape, you’re no patriot. Those are the citizens — the patriots — trying to make a difference. They — not the grinning sociopaths lip-synching to test-marketed, Teleprompted talking points — are the Americans with skin in the game.

Patriotism doesn’t start with blame and division. Let’s not let it end there, either. Let’s learn to let it go, after all.

It’s not the same as forgetting.






  1. Well said Jack. It’s not easy to understand, or even come to grips with people who do not think as I do. I don’t suppose it’s easy for anyone. We all want to be king for day and sort this whole mess out I suppose. Sort it out our way, without input from “the others”.
    Guess I’ve got some work to do.

  2. Very well put Jack. It’s good to hear an American saying the important things you’ve written because if anyone of any other nationality said it they’d have a drone on their arse!

  3. Some of your best!

    Which is really saying something…

  4. I have skin in the game…my arse is no longer on the line as such. Just voted (Heinlein bless absentee ballots).

    Is it okay that I blame voters more than the super geniuses they voted for?

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