Most American over twenty years old were old enough to understand the fear and anxiety that followed the terror attacks on that Tuesday morning in September of 2011. I remember a feeling of unreal disconnect. I’ve written about the eerie silence of that day. The lack of air traffic overhead. People walking in stunned silence. The entire country in uncertain fear. Most reasonable Americans, though reeling with disbelief and shock, wanted justice not revenge. President Bush’s response wasn’t perfect, but it was strong and reassuring. When Mr Bush sent troops to Afghanistan, I was behind him. Our nation was behind him. Then, under suspicion of weapons of mass destruction, we invaded Iraq. It was a diversion from our original directive. Our leaders took advantage of the confusion and anger of the American people. We were duped.
This was the moment in American history when things changed. This was when the NSA was given carte blanche. This was when we traded our constitutional freedoms for the illusion of security. This was the shameful moment, the first time in American history, when the barbaric act of torture and revenge was seen as just another unfortunate fact of life, like the a sudden rainstorm catching you without an umbrella or getting mud on your new shoes. Sure, it’s unpleasant to think about but I’ve got troubles of my own. I forgot to set my TIVO to record Will and Grace! Stan died having sex with his mistress. Will Karen be left penniless?
To be fair, we lied to ourselves. We didn’t call it torture. We called it EIT, or Enhances Interrogation Techniques. Doesn’t sound so bad. If water boarding is simply an enhanced interrogation technique, why did we execute the Japanese for war crimes after WWII for doing it?
Though not the 1963 Pre-March on Washington episode that was rebroadcast Sunday morning, it’s interesting to note how some of those attitudes still persist today.
Some on twitter likened it to watching Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, or even Bill O’Reilly in 2013.
It’s true that we have accomplished much since the 1960s. There is more representation of people of color in positions of power. But there still remains a stubborn thread of ignorance that prevents America from fully being the “Land of the Free” that it purports to be.