"People have often been willing to give up personal identity and join into a collective. Historically, that propensity has usually been very bad news. Collectives tend to be mean, to designate official enemies, to be violent, and to discourage creative, rigorous thought. Fascists, communists, religious cults, criminal 'families' — there has been no end to the varieties of human collectives, but it seems to me that these examples have quite a lot in common. I wonder if some aspect of human nature evolved in the context of competing packs. We might be genetically wired to be vulnerable to the lure of the mob." ~ Jaron Lanier
It's Time to Forget September 11
It's time to forget September 11th. That's right. You heard me. It's time to push it out of our minds. You can hoot and holler all you want about this concept. You can say I'm anti-American. You can even accuse me of spitting on the memories of all those who died. But you would miss the point of what I'm about to say here, because this has nothing to do with the heroes or victims, and nothing to do with politics. This has to do with us. Four and a half years have passed since the craziest day in American history. At this point, that's all 9/11 is: Just one crazy day that happened four and a half years ago. It sucked, but we can't change it. We shouldn't let it change the American dream. I was reminded of how important this is last week, when the deal that would've sold six American ports to an Arab company'Dubai Ports World'collapsed under the weight of widespread American uproar. I've been thinking we should 'forget 9/11' for a while now, but I've never shared it, because I know how folks will react to it, and I didn't want people to get any wrong ideas. To me, forgetting 9/11 isn't about forgetting the dead or forgetting what happened. It's about returning to normal. It's literally about getting over it, accepting it, and, for lack of a less politically loaded phrase, moving on. To a certain extent or another, I tricked myself into believing we'd already done that. Not politically, but on a personal, practical, everyday level. I could've sworn we got all the paranoid fears out of our systems during the celebrity-bashing, freedom-fry-eating early days of the Iraq War. But I was wrong. The reaction to Dubai Ports World resembles 9/11's immediate aftermath in every meaningful way. The only reason anyone cared about this transaction was because this Arab company was just that: Arab. No one cared that they were also just that: a company. And no one wanted to hear that enabling terror wasn't in their best business interests. This harkens back to September of '01, when everyone knew someone who knew someone who 'saw' the Pakistanis down at the local Dunkin Donuts cheering the Twin Towers' destruction. It resembles those days of national paralysis, when a forward'a mere email, from a friend of a friend who 'never sends these things''was enough to keep us out of the malls for fear of terror on Halloween. It made sense to react that way back then. Because back then, we were starved for information. We were still gripped by the shock and the awe. But after four and a half years, we've had time to think it over. I'm not saying we should forget those who perished, and I'm not suggesting we should pretend terrorism doesn't exist. But is it time to get over September 11th, to move on'to, in some sense, 'forget' it? Yeah. It really is. This place we call 'post-9/11 America''it's not the same place I grew up in. This isn't the land of the free and the home of the brave. A free people would fear doing business with no one. And a people committed to free enterprise would seek to do business with everyone'Arabs included. The ports scandal isn't about national security. It's about the new and unimproved America. The country that wants fences on its borders. The land where the free want protection from outsourced jobs. Post-9/11 America doesn't think it can compete with the rest of the planet. It doesn't believe in the products it's selling. And it doesn't believe in its own ideals. Nothing proves this more than an article I happened to read a couple of weeks ago, that complained about U.S. Olympians wearing Canadian-made uniforms. Apparently, this was 'anti-American.' How? I don't know. I would think the quest for better, less expensive products'wherever they come from'is patriotic. After all, it's capitalism. And capitalism's the American way. But that was what we believed in the old country'in pre-9/11 America. This is post-9/11 America now. Things are different here. Look around, and you'll find the only thing America's confident in anymore is its military. Take that away'take the pageantry, the yellow ribbons, and the thanks to 'our men and women serving abroad' before sporting events'and it's clear that we think we have nothing to offer. We've grown soft in the era of get-rich-quick McDonald's lawsuits. Our culture is vacuous, and our belief in it is missing. Even the best stuff we have'like our colleges'are too busy being reviled to be respected and enjoyed. I blame September 11th for all of this. I blame the terrorists for the destruction that day caused, but I blame us'we, the people'for letting it destroy us. It's time to pack our bags and move out of here'time to get out of post-9/11 America, and time to return to our senses. Americans need to believe in themselves again. We need to get back to business. This country didn't become great because of some abstract freedom imposed by an army. It became great because of the tangible things inspired by our zeal to be free. If the country that gave the world electricity, light bulbs, telephones, airplanes, moon landings, and cyberspace needs a fence on its border and a pledge to 'buy American,' then that country can't compete with the world anymore, because that country's not dreaming the American dream. On September 12, 2001, I wrote of the folks who attacked us: 'screw their women, screw their children, screw every last one of them.' I don't regret writing that, because I believed it back then. Most of us did. But for God's sake, it's time to move on now. Screw September 11th. Screw being attacked. Screw going to war. Screw anything that gets in the way of the peace and prosperity once synonymous with our name. If we're a free people, if we believe in free enterprise'let's prove it. If we want our enemies to embrace our way of life, let's embrace it ourselves. Let's do business with Dubai. Let's do business with Cuba. Let's welcome a little competition from China and India. And let's 'buy American' because it's better'not because it's ours. Let's open the markets and open the borders. Make America more free, not less. We should never forget September 11th happened. And we should never forget the lessons of the carnage that it caused. But just because 3,000 people died four and a half years ago doesn't mean we should stop believing in the power of what we believe. Let's stop living in fear and start dreaming again. At the end of the day, that's what people in the land of the free are supposed to do.