Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11: Then & Now

Where were you? How did you feel? What did it feel like when it seemed the world was coming to an end?

I can't forget that day. It was my second day of school. When I woke up and got prepared, it seemed like any other normal school day. I didn't even bother to turn on the TV.

But as soon as I arrived on campus, something didn't seem right. No one was chirpy and cheery as usual. And as soon as first period started, the geography teacher broke us the news.

A terrorist attack? The Twin Towers are burning down? The Pentagon is under attack? What is the world coming to?

That's how I felt immediately upon hearing this. But of course, there was soon more to digest.

al-Qaeda? Who are they? Muslims? Muslim terrorists? Why would this happen? And what else is happening? Another plane crash in Pennsylvania?

I was starting to "rebel" as a teenager, and this became increasingly evident later in the day... And especially in the coming weeks and months. I was then attending a Christian Fundamentalist private school. I was scared then, and deeply in the closet. But as everyone around me started repeating everything George W. Bush said as if it were the word of god as they pumped their fists and threatened to "kill all the Muslims", I became frightened... Of these people I thought I knew.

I felt so weird back then. Everyone else was cheering for wars and more wars. I was not. I remember hearing the pleas from RAWA not to invade Afghanistan. I remember wondering why everyone all of a sudden was calling for war on Iraq when Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. I remember why everyone seemed so willing to give up what made America so free in order to "stay safe".

I wasn't directly affected by 9/11, but it nonetheless turned my world upside down. While so many were lavishing George W. Bush with hero worship, I felt like the only one who actually noticed the real courage of Barbara Lee being the lone voice of reason as she spoke against what would soon become endless wars and countless attacks on our civil liberties. While so many were suddenly changing their tunes from "getting bin Laden" to "getting Saddam", I was wondering what was happening to my country.

Eight years ago, I never expected I'd register to vote as a Democrat. I never expected I'd become a member of the ACLU. I never expected I'd become a "peacenik". I didn't expect then that I would be here now.

I guess in some way, this reflects the story of how this nation has changed in the last eight years. Perhaps I was "ahead of the curve", but it's interesting to now see that most Americans now oppose the endless war in Afghanistan and that so many people are now talking about our Constitution and civil liberties. Of course, now all we hear is "Obama wants a government takeover of health care!" Ironically, these are the same blowhards who never questioned Bush when he really was stripping away our Constitutional rights. The same right-wing extremists who once supported every criminal act of Bush are now "concerned" about Obama's "un-American socialist attacks on our freedom"? Gimme a break.

But hey, at least dissent is no longer considered "un-American". And maybe one day, this nation will wake up and realize that another world is possible. A world at peace. A world of social justice. A world without terrorism, whether it's a bunch of cruel extremists attacking a city or government sponsored attacks on other nations.

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