I woke up this morning to voices on the radio telling me how I should feel. They told me that I should “never forget” what happened five years ago today. They told me that it “wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when.” One voice even suggested that we should remember this “until the end of time.” They suggested in their somber and soothing tones that I was meant to mourn in some way or be completely serious, that I had to treat today like some centerfold in a stroke mag, the airbrushed flesh replaced by an American flag.
Well, I’ve had five years to come to terms with the planes crashing into those towers. Five years paying attention to the tenuous and as yet unproven connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Five years watching soldiers die and Iraqis bombed. Five years watching my civil liberties erode, my phones getting tapped, due process being dismantled, and who knows how many false arrests. Five years enduring those who want me to live in fear and to disrupt my life. Five years encouraging others not to be afraid. I’ve spent five years keeping up a cheery front while the vultures in DC have done everything in their power to make my countrymen live without dignity.
Well, I am not some emotional machine with buttons for people to push. Nor is anyone living in this great land. That this day should be treated with some kind of automatic reverence is appalling. I am troubled that people are expected to feel and think in some predetermined way. Any true act of patriotism involves something in which the citizen and the government mutually respect each other. There are many things that I can be patriotic about, but the emotional manipulation of this fifth anniversary (and if this is an anniversary proper, how does one raise a toast to three thousand lives and beyond anyway?) is not one of them.
To quote the great H.L. Mencken, “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”
I’m not sorry that I like my country too damn much. Neither should you be.
[UPDATE: The Rake offers a handy-dandy guide on this matter.]