Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reflections on 9/11

So much rain lately.  Twice this week I had to ad lib my delivery route as floods and road blockades diverted my path.  It even rained a bit this morning on my way in to the warehouse.   There was a break in the clouds however, and at one point in my morning travels I was a spectator to a very clear, star filled sky.  I am not sure if the number of stars seemed greater because I haven't been able to see any stars lately, but it certainly seemed like there were more visible than normal.  Especially Orion's belt which appeared extremely bright.

I have read a number of columns about the upcoming 10 year anniversary of 9/11.  Most have been respectful to those who lost their lives, and non-political in abstaining from attempting to make points about/against either party. 

I may not be quite as restrained.

To start, it is clear, 10 years later, that the events of 9/11 were a significant factor in how this country has changed since then.  

In early September, 2001, we were still riding the high of being the only superpower still standing. 

Unemployment was around 5%. 

The national debt was right around $6 trillion.   

Of course, it is impossible to know how the leaders of America would have governed had they been from the Democratic party.
Perhaps the events of this horrible blow would have transcended all politics and the actions of our elected leaders and nothing would be different today.  

But what we do know is that we had a Republican president from Jan 2001- through Dec 2008.

We had a Republican controlled House of Representatives from January 1999 (actually their run started Jan 1997) through January 2007.  

We had an interesting dynamic in the Senate.  From January 3 to January 20, 2001, with the Senate divided evenly between the two parties, the Democrats held the majority due to the deciding vote of outgoing Democratic Vice President Al Gore. Senator Thomas A. Daschle served as majority leader at that time. Beginning on January 20, 2001, Republican Vice President Richard Cheney held the deciding vote, giving the majority to the Republicans. Senator Trent Lott resumed his position as majority leader on that date. On May 24, 2001, Senator James Jeffords of Vermont announced his switch from Republican to Independent status, effective June 6, 2001. Jeffords announced that he would caucus with the Democrats, giving the Democrats a one-seat advantage, changing control of the Senate from the Republicans back to the Democrats. Senator Thomas A. Daschle again became majority leader on June 6, 2001. Senator Paul D. Wellstone (D-MN) died on October 25, 2002, and Independent Dean Barkley was appointed to fill the vacancy. The November 5, 2002 election brought to office elected Senator James Talent (R-MO), replacing appointed Senator Jean Carnahan (D-MO), shifting balance once again to the Republicans -- but no reorganization was completed at that time since the Senate was out of session.

At this point, Republicans took control of the Senate in Jan 2003 and held it until Jan 2007 when again, there was an even split of Democratic and Republican senators (49 each) with one independent democrat (Lieberman) and one independent (Sanders) so the Democrats had a slim majority. 

In essence then, we had a republican president with a republican controlled House and Senate for five plus years of the ten years following 9/11.  The critical first five years when all the major decisions were made concerning our national reaction to this horrible day.

And what was our national reaction?

At first, unity.  Perhaps a unity based on revenge, but a unity nonetheless.  When we were told that the terrorists were trained in Afghanistan we gave full approval to invade that country in October 2001.  After 18 months, we were told that Iraq was also involved in the training and planning for the attack.  While there was some hesitancy, again, another military incursion was begun. 

In the meantime, at home, the business friendly Bush Administration continued some of the regulation relaxations that had begun under Clinton and added some of their own.  The housing bubble, driven partly by a belief that everyone should own a home (even if they couldn't afford one), partly by the greed of the mortgage companies and banks who turned a blind eye to those who shouldn't be granted a mortgage, and partly by the illusion that America was the greatest country on Earth, nay in history, and that everything we touch will turn to gold. 

As we spent more money on our attempts to find justice through the military, the supply side economic theory begun under President Reagan gained favor again.  Tax cuts for all were initiated in both 2001 and 2003, but it was the 2003 cuts that had the most effect.  Combined with the costs of the wars, these cuts did not spur growth as the supply-siders theorized but instead began a series of federal budget deficits that averaged over $500 million per year. 

And then the housing bubble burst.  Mortgage companies were left with clients who couldn't cover their payments, the actual mortgages had been bundled into derivatives that had infected banks and insurance companies, working class Americans began losing their jobs and the cycle was complete.  More houses foreclosed, no construction jobs to find, more people unemployed, no orders for manufacturing, etc, etc.  Coincidentally, the top 1% of wage earners saw their share of overall income increase.

Which brings us back to the solemn remembrance of those who lost their lives on 9/11.  But what else did we lose that day?   Did we forget that it is in the face of tragedy that we can demonstrate our best qualities?  Did we also forget that hatred only begets hatred, and that ten years of war will never bring peace to those who lost loved ones, never bring solace to our country?

It is time to move forward and create a new reaction to the attacks on America that occurred ten years ago.

It is time for us to end our conflicts overseas. 

It is time for us to remember the sacrifices made by those who built our country, sacrifices that included thinking beyond our own material gains.

It is time for us to replace the maxim that whoever has the most toys wins with whoever displays the most humanity wins.

It is time for us to reject trickle down economic theories and embrace one which puts the american worker's interests before those of the multi-national corporations.

It is time for us to cease the false glorification of the individual above community and recall the wagon trains of yesteryear where everyone moved forward together, succeeding or failing as a group.

It is time for us to memorialize those who died on 9/11/01 with more than just words, more than just hatred for the perpetrators of that horrible carnage, more than just the money above all attitude that permeates our culture.

It is time for us, each one of us, to display American exceptionalism, not as measured by economic gain or the bottom line but as measured by the teachings of the person whose name forms the basis of our belief that we are a Christian nation.

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