I was speaking with my daughter last week. Remember the day of the bombing has been something I’ve talked about with journalists through the years…
On that day I was in Los Angeles, my daughter was getting ready for school, it was her first week in the 8th grade. I took her to school, and came back to my house and walked up to the beach. There were no planes in the sky.
And I could feel all the living things holding their breaths, as if waiting for the war. But, no, it was only people. The birds still sang, the sea still roared, the sky was blue and the grass was green. We have destroyed it all, I thought. And we could have stopped it. We have let 500 men kill billions of people. 500 wealthy men around the world fighting for oil and power have killed us all. I swore that day that would never again be silent about my political opinions and that for the rest of my life I would remember this day, and if we did not die, I would do something to try to stop these ‘500 men’
I mentioned to her, gee, you are the generation that grew up in the wake of nine eleven. She lit up over the phone. Yes, we are. And you know what? You guys are Rehab central, anonymous interactions, living through computers… Well, our voices don’t matter. We know that.
We all feel this way now, but what is it like to grow up that way? Here it is, 2011, ten years later, the world I knew is gone. I grew up in a time, as did my parents and their parents, when people felt like they had a voice because they did have a voice. No one was afraid of the government. Watch the old movies, people smart off to the cops. Now you smart off to the stewardess you end up in secret airline prison. It’s terrifying. We worked hard to stop the police – or anyone in the US – from having absolute power, Miranda Rights were just one of the wonderful results of our diligence. Our rights hard won, but part of an American tradition of fair-mindedness. No, really, I’m not kidding. We were the nation with the guy who said ‘ I may not agree with what you say but I will fight to the DEATH for YOUR right to say it. ‘ hahahahaha. Imagine someone saying that today on Fox news.
We were co-authors of the Geneva Convention, ( which, under Bush, we have abandoned, and under Obama, have not reinstated our commitment to) We abhorred the idea of torture and ‘ truth and justice’ were the American way. I think someone out there still thinks we are that Superman show, but he is just not wanting to see the terrible truth of what we have become. We fought for fair conditions for any one in war, whatever they were called ‘soldiers’ combatants’ whatever. Now we have people who kidnap people and hold them without trail, who train our own child soldiers to torture and humiliate them. Thing is, we allowed this to happen. Helplessly we looked on as everything we knew as America was stripped away. We know they think they are clever when they say, well what is torture, really? Your rendition is not mine. Yeah, lets call it ‘rendition’ that sounds legal.
Our social, spiritual, communal intention was to stand for the rights of all human beings. That is why white people joined black people in the protests, from 1965 to 1975, and in South Africa and in Berlin… we cheered for the idea that the people could overtake governments that seemed to rule with Satanic power. Here at home, Vietnam, our voices rang out – and we were heard – on every tv station, in ever newspaper across the country. We were not censored. That is how the ‘crimes’ of soldiers were exposed by our own press in our own country. Because we wanted to be a good country, and we thought we were. Our voices were still heard here at home in gay rights protests, though less and less now. States are actually passing laws protecting the right of gay marriage. No, women’s rights have not come along as hoped. But our voices were heard. We were not afraid. And we were fighting for each other’s rights. No longer. Today we live in an atmosphere of hatred and aggression toward one another. We fear our own government. If a million of us take to the streets in protest of a war for oil…. our voices simply will not find their way to tv or media. I know, because millions marched against the war nine years ago, and their marches were simply not reported. As we watched the presidency abducted – by an idiot billionaires son, CIA operatives all over Florida, strange twists that made no sense, at least not in Our country, (the fraud, the voter intimidation, the Supreme Court voting against making sure the voting fraud reports were accounted for..by simply recounting) we knew we were in terrible danger. But the moment of knowing you are in danger usually is a moment too late. You see the guy with the gun, unless you know how to deal with him, he’s probably going to win.
In one swoop, 250 years of human rights were over and assimilated in semantics and lies. But when nine eleven happened, and all the inconsistencies and unfortunate coincidences came to light, the idiot president reading a children’s book as the city is blown up, how appropriate, from memorandums suggesting this kind of attack would be good business, to the recordings of calls from planes that we heard the first day and never heard again, or the gold under the world trade center and the odd fact that no other buildings but those two seemed to be destroyed… and then we bomb a country that had nothing to do with the world trade center bombings and we all knew that… we all found some of this whole thing rather shady. There was the beginning. We watched in true shock and awe as our own power was stripped from us, arrogant and intimidating men hissed at the presses right to ask them what they were doing, and the Patriot Act took from every citizen his right to a fair and speedy trial, the right to an attorney, the right to not be held and hung and no one ever know. I What could we do? Cops will kill us, government will steal us, we already felt pressure not to speak against Bush, he really was so like Hitler. If you don’t like Bush, you don’t like America, that’s what people were saying.
Now we meet a generation of people, children who have grown up in this..this brave new world. They know they have no voice. They live in fear of speaking out. They see intimidation and pray, just don’t pick me. Sounds like Serevo. Santiago. Wonder where those ‘consultants’ learned how effective fear among the population can be.
I wanted to say something, but I just didn’t “Why didn’t you?” , I asked a twenty year old waitress today.. She told me she was afraid to speak out when she saw an ‘ Arab’ looking person being questioned with what she felt was racist aggression, at the airport… ‘ well, ‘ she said thoughtfully ‘ they can do anything they want’
And there is the difference between her generation and mine and all the others. No other American generation has believed they lived in a country where their government that could do anything it wanted to anyone without responsibility, without repercussion. This generation of people, up to 25 years old, know no other world but this. The ground they walk on is never safe. They live in a secret society that takes people away when they are in line at the airport, but it is cleverly disguised, because the airport is full of so many pretty things to buy.
If we have lost American to ‘consultants’ , if torture is now ‘rendition’ and if we can call a thing a different name and it is a different thing, then these kids know that the country is not theirs, and ground they stand on shifts beneath them even as they step inside their own homes. The epidemic of drug use and addiction has resulted in a billion dollar unmonitored industry of rehabs. The six week $30,000 is my personal favorite. Our health care systems refuse to pay for the elderly to have rehabilitation for more than eight sessions after a stroke. But get hooked on drugs and they have to fork up 25,000.
Any addict knows nobody gets well in six weeks. But my point is that everything is for sale here. Sell that idea to private enterprise and the republicans will buy it. It seems to be the ‘business’ party and the ‘citizen’ party. And its as simple as that. Writing for, and reading this on the internet, we are all part of the brave new world that finds solace and comfort in anonymity. The loneliness of the day, the pressures, the sorrows and frustrations are soothed somehow by knowing that we are connected. You are Sunday Morning Live! to a world that may not know your name but hears your voice, somehow, even if it’s only 140 characters at a time. The prophet Andy Warhol knew this somehow forty years ago. Everyone is famous. So no one has to watch the tower burning. We can watch Charlie Sheen instead.
Rickie Lee Jones