Voyeurism And The Post 9/11 Empire

Posted: July 11, 2008 in Politics, Social Issues

I live in a world of haunted memories. The ghosts of the last decade visit me to remind me of richer times represented not only by greater affluence, but of the wealth of possibilities that the future might have held. I am faced with the phantoms of a pre-9-11 world, a society not emburdened with the threats of immanent terrorism, the scourge of heightened jingoism, nor the plague of economic decline. I look back in time, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, before the latest recession, to a time when the U.S. dollar was still worth more than the Euro, before the mass de-industrialization and sell-out of major corporations in this country. I look back at all of these things, look at how much our society has changed for the worse since 9-11 and long for those brighter days of the “Roaring ’90’s.” At times I walk through this life in a waking dream and think that that proverbial chartless future may still be around the corner, but more often, I wake to the realization of the nightmare that has become post 9-11 life in America.

While the events of September 11th, 2001 were certainly startling, I must ask myself why those particular terror attacks were so impactful. Like most people, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the morning of the attacks. I was living in Dayton at the time, and the woman whose grass I was cutting called me inside to watch the television, where the infamous events of that morning were tragically unfolding. All of the media with its pervasive all-seeing-eye, already posed the premise that we were under attack, complete with stylized graphics and stunned reporters commenting with great pathos and occupational self-indulgence not seen since the Gulf War in 1991. I remember feeling afraid.

Rumors of more terror attacks to come circulated even throughout the Dayton area. We were after all, close to Wright-Patterson Air Force base, and in the heightened state of fear, it seemed plausible that the terrorists might fix their diabolical eye on sleepy Dayton, home of such treasures as the Mead building and the Wright B Flyer. It was the fear of the unknown that drove us to such ludicrous concerns. Even then no one could have guessed how much our world would really change.

It is easy for me to look back at the progression of events since 9-11 that brought us here. It seems that even the 2000 presidential election debacle was a harbinger of things to come. A dynastic son rises to power, despite a series of failures, becoming appointed (not rightfully elected) as president during, perhaps, the most controversial election in American history. A mere eight months after his inauguration, 9-11 happens, solidifying George W. Bush’s place in history, bringing purpose to his mostly non-descript presidency. More controversy would haunt this man in the post 9-11 years in the form of bad policy decisions which would lead us to war and drive us into record-breaking deficits. Despite the political capital he gained immediately following 9-11, George Bush, continuing his streak of failures, extinguished the positive regard posited by most of the world by circumventing international law and invading the sovereign nations of Afghanistan and Iraq. This had the effect of driving the United States further into debt and entangling us in a state of war that has no foreseeable end.

The terror attacks on 9-11 marked the birthing of the neo-fascist era of America, sometimes referred to as the “New American Century.” The Bush administration was certainly opportunistic in its complicity surrounding the events of 9-11. This administration cranked up the fear machine to help remind us that we are in a state of terror. Unprecedented executive power was seized in the aftermath of the attacks. Traditional avenues for diplomacy and policy-making were displaced while the might of the U.S. military industrial complex was bolstered by the “war on terror,” an ambiguous war of paradox and deception.

In fact, 9-11 was a veritable free-for-all full of opportunists ready to steer America in new directions. The mainstream media, largely uncritical of the post 9-11 American government, enjoyed a lucrative and satisfying arrangement with the administration and rolled out the terror propaganda. Religious fanatics capitalized on the new aura of fear by tying the events of 9-11 together with the mythologies of the bible, creating a sort of new American theocracy. This had the effect of polarizing not only contingents in America, but in the rest of the world as well. All the while the terror threat was hyped, and the warmongering continued to pervade the ideology of the terrorized psyche of the American mind. War and violence at the expense of the lives of unrelated parties were somehow justified as acceptable measures to be taken to preserve the fragile sensibilities of the American way of life.

If the purpose of the perpetrators of the attacks on 9-11 was to permanently alter our way of life, then sadly, they have succeeded. It seems that most of the progress we made towards tolerance, acceptance, and unity in the 90’s somehow lapsed in favor of post 9-11 priorities. This is not due to any terrorist infiltration of American society, but rather, our acceptance of neo-fascist regime change within our own country. We have practically handed over constitutional liberties in exchange for the illusion of security. Americans have become more galvanized, more bigoted, and seemingly more ignorant in the years succeeding 9-11. Easy answers in the form of bumper sticker slogans touted by talking heads are repeated in remarkable lock-step fashion by detail-weary Americans who don’t take the time or put forth the energy to scrutinize the state of affairs in our country.

Why were we so affected by 9-11? It was certainly tragic and unprecedented. But I believe deep down that we were so affected because it connected us to a larger reality for just a moment, and now that we have experienced it, we are hooked. The orgy of violence on 9-11 reminded us that death and terror are real and maybe even thrilling. We are so buried in the virtual reality of television programming that we have become de-sensitized to the real possibility of danger. So when it happens on a large scale and in front of our eyes, we are so shocked that we can’t help but to watch. I believe that the terror attacks on 9-11 awakened a thirst for graphic voyeurism of a tragic scale. On the surface, we hope that the worst is over and that any possible future attacks have been stymied by all of the post 9-11 security measures put in place. But under the surface, I believe we are anticipating the next big terror event that will bring us to grips with that which connects us to what is real.

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