Monday, September 11, 2006

Whys and wherefores without wherewithal

What happened five years ago on September 11, 2001 means something different to everyone, but for just about every American, it was a life-changing moment in time.

The people of my generation were told that we would remember 9/11 vividly the way a previous generation would remember the assassination of President Kennedy. I do actually remember fairly vividly many of the details of that morning. I remember sleeping in on that morning, as I had already decided to take the day off of work for personal reasons, and the phone rang. It was my mother-in-law, who urged me and my wife to turn on the television. "Somebody's bombed New York or something!" We turned it on in time to see the first building collapse.

For me though, there was an eerie quality to the whole first half of September that I occasionally play over in my mind. For me personally, the events of 9/11/2001 were one tragedy in the midst of a string of several that happened in my life. In my life, but not directly to me, I suppose, tragedy is a strange thing. Tragedies come with a factor of distance and severity. The other tragedies were closer to me but of course less severe than a pair of 100-story buildings collapsing to kill several thousand people. Still, the exchange in those factors made them all seem fairly even to me in a fashion; does that make sense?

Many of the things that happened were too personal to discuss here, but I will speak of the first and the last of them all. First, a beloved family member passed away. There had just been a funeral, right at the start of the month. He had gone to the doctor complaining of some problems, and the doctor had told him nothing was wrong, he should go home and rest. So he did. A couple days later, he was dead.

Why did the doctor miss his diagnosis? Why did this man accept the diagnosis without question, even as his symptoms grew worse? Why did he have to die? Why does it hurt for those of us left behind even though all of us who were believers in Christ were certain of this man's salvation, and felt it safe to assume he was in heaven? None of those are questions that are easy to answer.

The last thing that happened, to me anyway, was that I received notice of a friend and co-worker from a couple years back having committed suicide. She was an intelligent, beautiful, fun person that everybody liked, and she seemed to have a lot going for her as far as anybody knew. But apparently on the 9th of September, she hung herself in her apartment, and wasn't discovered until nearly a week after. She left no note.

Why did she kill herself? What was it that was causing her enough suffering that dying seemed like an improvement over her situation? Was there anything that I myself could have done, either at the time or back years previously when I had known her better, to change her mind? Does suicide really relieve one of suffering if there is an afterlife? Might she have suffered worse or found a reason to live if she had waited a few more days and seen the horror in New York? These are questions that are virtually impossible to answer.

But while I had never been to New York, while I had never seen the towers in person, while I didn't know any of the people who died on *that* day, some of the most nagging questions linger on that central event. When two planes crashed into towers in New York and two tried (one unsuccessfully) to crash into buildings in Washington, DC, we were left with a lot of questions that I sometimes wonder who is asking.

Why? Don't we want to know why? This isn't about 72 houris awaiting each hijacker in paradise, not to Osama bin Laden. This isn't about "" who "hate freedom". I don't buy that. Osama bin Laden wanted to send a message to the world. Even if we refuse to respect that message, even if we condemn that message for the brutal manner in which it was sent, doesn't the severity of that make us want to sit up and at least hear what it was he was trying to say? If only to respond intelligently?

It's an odd thing about myself. My religious beliefs lead me to hold the view that human beings are, at their heart, evil. Yet at the same time, I believe that there also exists a drive in people that makes them desire to do what they think is the right thing. Bin Laden and his cohorts who planned out and executed the attacks of 9/11 may appear to be evil, and indeed, they most likely are. Isn't it not just possible, but likely that they believed that what they were doing was the right thing to do? The 19 hijackers were willing to give their lives for it. The al-Qaeda organization, while maybe weaker than it once was, still exists, so I assume its members didn't look at 9/11 and say, "My, that was a bit too brutal for my tastes!"

The majority of the people of the world heard about what had happened to our country on 9/11, and their sympathy and support went out to us as a nation. That is a good thing. However, there exists a minority of the world's population who, upon hearing the news, celebrated. Some of these people are in fact so elated by this attack, that if they had the chance to be a part of another attack like it in the future, they wouldn't hesitate. This is a phenomenon that makes me want to ask "Why?" but unlike the other things that make me want to ask "Why?" there are people who are willing, able, and probably eager to answer it. Shouldn't more of us be asking?


migca said...

It feels strange replying to a post from several years ago, but your Watchmen annotations made me think about our history a bit differently, and gave me an unpleasant jolt.

I doubt many would argue that without the 9/11 tragedy, the Bush administration would have little rationale for invading Afghanistan, and certainly none for preemptively invading Iraq. It follows that there would be no Patriot Act, illegal wiretaps, renditions, torture, etc. Not to forget the ongoing trillion dollar wars.

I'm old enough to shudder at the mere thought of Richard Nixon's stay in office rivaling that of FDR. Yet Nixon may never have even held the Presidency except for one of the strangest murders in US history: the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

If RFK had lived, he would have been the favorite for the democratic nomination. At the time, few people in politics gave Nixon much of a chance against RFK in the general election.

Martin Luther King had been assassinated only a few months prior to Senator Kennedy. Yet the murder investigation and subsequent trial of RFK's alleged assassin Sirhan Sirhan, was easily one of the most corrupt and strangely inept criminal cases I've ever read about.

I'd urge anyone interested but unfamiliar with those events of 1968 to do their own research. It won't take much digging to uncover many things that will make it hard to believe such errors and police misconduct could take place in a major case like RFK's.

Not only did we lose a potentially great President, we gained more than 6 miserable years of Nixon.

Brucker said...

Alan Moore is not the only one by far who suspects there was something extra-fishy about Kennedy's assassination.

I'm not the sort of conspiracy theorist to suggest that Bush conspired to bring about or even allow 9/11, but I do think he took quite a bit of advantage of the situation it created politically. In particular, I doubt he would have gotten a second term if the 9/11 tragedy had not happened.

migca said...

Sorry, but I'm not sure I understand your first comment. Were you referring to RFK or JFK or both? I'm aware that Moore has stated his suspicions about JFK fairly often. I wasn't aware that he ever voiced opinions about RFK's murder, but I'll look into it.

I have far too many questions and suspicions about the events of 9/11 for my tastes. The highly dubious "official explanation" might be laughable if those events were not so tragic.

What I meant to point out was that a murderous political act not only put the historical Nixon in the Presidency, it deprived us of a candidate that may have created a very different future. A similar violent act allowed the Bush administration a free hand to alter this nation in ways I never thought I'd see.

Although I suspect GW's "stupid cowboy" image was partly an act, I can't believe anyone seriously believes he had any type of role in the 9/11 attacks. For example, if you were an evil-doing traitor working within a rogue faction of the government that's planning this assault, would you tell George anything important?

Brucker said...

All I'm saying is that I've gotten the impression that whatever dark forces are at work behind the political machine in Washington, they don't seem to want any of the Kennedys to have any real power. I don't know that Alan Moore has said much of anything about it beyond the alternate history of JFK's assassination, though.

While I'm far from a fan of GWB, I always find it odd the way many of his stronger detractors want to portray him simultaneously as a bumbling idiot and criminal mastermind. Surely he can only be one of those things, right?

Personally, I tend to see him as an opportunist that largely destroyed our standing in the world by using the sympathy we had garnered from 9/11 to serve his own political ends.