A year ago today, we informally closed our office on the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, from fear of some recurrence of terrorist activity and, at least on my part, out of a sense of confusion. It wasn’t clear to me how we as a nation should act or behave, how we should honor the dead, and what bearing my personal enmity for the way that the Bush administration had been prosecuting the war on terror should have on the way I conducted myself on 11 Sep 2002. It seemed best to sit out the day quietly, abstaining from anything remotely inappropriate.
There was a lead-up of anxiety to that one year anniversary, but this year, the milestone seems to have practically snuck up on us without fanfare or expectation. I’d wager that today, much more so than last year, so many of us woke up this morning and headed off to work with virtually no compunction or sense of danger, even those living in or heading to lower Manhattan. Now that it’s here, we still mourn the day’s historical loss, but otherwise we feel a kind of detachment from it, too. To some degree, we seem to feel safer, or to be willing to resume our illusion of safety.
For me, what’s saddest about that day, beyond the tragic deaths we shouldn’t ever forget, is the lasting damage that the attacks have had on the fabric of our life, principally taking the form of a government run amuck, one bearing less and less resemblance to the America that our forefathers envisioned with each passing day. The attacks have, in many ways, achieved their effect of undermining democracy by essentially brokering a willing exchange of civil liberties — the defining trait of American character — for an illusion of safety. I wouldn’t even describe it as safety, but rather a kind of comfort in which danger is displaced to more convenient locales. The attacks effectively installed a regime of mendacity at the helm of American government, and they have led us dangerously off course. We need to replace George W. Bush in the 2004 election for President of the United States.