The September 11th anniversary is upon us again. It's been four years since suicide hijackers flew American planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - and into a quiet autumn field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The memory of where we were that day and how we learned about the tragedy is something we will always remember. One of my own family members worked just a few steps away from the Trade Center buildings, and like many Americans who had someone they loved in the danger zone, we recall the relief when we got the call from them saying that they were okay. Some of us never got the call. Some of us, such as Elizabeth Emery, the wife of Edgar Emery, got a phone call, only to find it would be the last earthly conversation they'd have with their loved one - and on that fateful morning they said their bittersweet farewells. It was the kind of tragedy where pain lies dormant, just under the skin, and on each anniversary we see the images again and the pain comes flowing back.
There has been more tragedy since that fateful day, and I regret to say that it was the preventable kind. There will be a parade and concert in Washington, D.C. on the 9/11 anniversary dubbed as a "9/11 Freedom Walk", and it is representative of a culmination of the tragic consequences which have caused Americans to fail to unite in a common purpose since 9/11. The "registry-only" participants of the parade will walk from the Pentagon, across the Memorial Bridge to the Mall. They will require a four-foot-high snow fencing to keep the event "closed and sterile". Authorities threaten to arrest anyone who joins the march or the following concert without a "credential." And here's the kicker - the media is banned from the parade route. Think about that for a minute - a 9/11 memorial in our nation's capital with fences to keep the public out and the media banned from getting close to the participants.
What we have here is a pro-Iraq-war march being dubbed as a "9/11 memorial". It mocks the words '9/11 memorial' and 'freedom' and 'democracy' because all it really seems to be is an invitation-only event sponsored by the "My Way or the Highway Patriotism Club," much like the Bush rallies we have observed. It screams of irony because it makes room for one limited and narrow choice on how you must think if you're going to be a member. Worse, it takes our nation's solemn memory of 9/11 and turns it into a divisive debate about a controversial war that never had any war-worthy 9/11 link.
Meanwhile, it's four years later and disappointed 9/11 widows still wait for the truth and they no longer believe that the intelligence agencies failed, suspecting instead that the failure lied in the hands of Pentagon leaders who did not pass along information to law enforcement. That is a tragedy.
Hurricane Katrina came along and proved we were not prepared for catastrophic emergency. All the rhetoric and promise about Homeland Security making us safer was swept away with the great flood. That is a tragedy.
President Bush praises 'armies of compassion' while promoting a tangled mess of new federalism that strips Americans' commonly-shared value of compassion straight out of the face of government. There was no effective coordination between state and local governments after Katrina. Imagine a bucket of water being poured over ants and imagine blaming them for their helplessness. That is a tragedy.
Katrina showed us that we didn't care enough about our nation's infrastructure, which is one of the most important necessities for a strong civil society. That is a tragedy.
President Bush had the comfort and support of the world on September 11, 2001, and he squandered it. He lacks the humility that the leader of a powerful nation needs to succeed. That is a tragedy.
The Iraq war has cost this nation 177 million dollars a day and the President has never called upon the nation for any kind of personal sacrifice. Instead, ideas that promote the elimination of taxes for the wealthiest put more burden upon the working class in America. That is a tragedy.
Poverty in America is on the rise while the Bush economy grows, taking on third-world characteristics. We see a staggering amount of concentrated wealth that recalls to us the memory of the pre-Depression days. That is a tragedy.
We are all Americans. That is the message our leaders should be sending to us, but I'm not hearing it. Instead, we get an elite Pentagon parade which is disconnected from 9/11/01 and we get leadership in whom we lose more faith by the day. That is the tragedy of 9/11/05.