It’s hard to grasp how 13 years could have passed since September 11th, 2001. Some kind of spell was cast that day and the world has seemed bound in it ever since. Time seems at a standstill. It’s like an old cartoon where the characters are supposed to be running but the background scenery is only repeating the same few landmarks over and over. In this case those landmarks are beheadings and boogiemen and endless rivers of Arab blood. This anniversary drove that idea home even deeper as the president who won his seat on a campaign that promised to right all the wrongs of preemptive wars and eroded civil liberties told us it’s still not over.
9/11 changed my life. I had only been 20 years old for a little over a month when I woke just in time to watch the towers fall live on TV. Suddenly, I became interested in the world outside myself, and I began a great quest to know exactly what had just happened. With a burgeoning interest in academics already formed by that time, I trudged through the mire of philosophy, esoterica, conspiracy theory, and political rhetoric.
Traveling south that day on Route 17 in New Jersey, I saw the smoke on the horizon with my own eyes. And, like a heavy cloud, fear crept into my life for a long time afterward. Lying awake at night, living only tens of miles away from Manhattan, I wondered what it would be like to have my body ripped apart by a nuclear explosion. I became obsessed with the news, breaking apart all the double speak of government officials and tossing the refuse into the fires of my righteous indignation.
My thoughts about 9/11 involve the very tangled relationship between fear and control. To fear is to be controlled, even if it is just being controlled by the fear itself. Fear dictates our actions and clogs our ears to the voices around us. But the desire to control is also a desire rooted in fear. That means those who seek to control us fear us or at least fear the absence of control. I think this is the great lesson of 9/11. Whether you believe the Commission Report to be hallowed truth or if you, combing the internet tonight, find a security camera tape of Dick Cheney personally wrapping the support beams of WTC 7 in C-4, there is no doubt how 9/11 was co-opted as a brand of fear.
I see absolutely no way around the fact that the Bush administration took 9/11 and made it into a brand. No matter what you believe happened, they took the events of that day and used them to control. They did not deploy grief counselors to assess the PTSD of the population. All they offered was the drumbeat of war and the continuation of bloodshed as they slowly tightened their grip on the landscape of our civil liberties. The with-us-or-against-us attitude was pure fear and alienation. Those amongst us who did not see any value in perpetuating violence were viciously marginalized. Make no mistake: the Obama administration has done fuck all to reverse this stranglehold and has merely perpetuated it. 9/11 became a brand and its slogan still is “Never Forget.” As in, never let go of the fear you felt that day. Always fixate on the terror and always bow to we who can protect you.
Robert Anton Wilson wrote about Karma: “Karma, in the original Buddhist scriptures, is a blind machine; in fact, it is functionally identical with the scientific concept of natural law. Sentimental ethical ideas about justice being built into the machine, so that those who do evil in one life are punished for it in another life, were added later by theologians reasoning from their own moralistic prejudices. Buddha simply indicated that all cruelties and injustices of the past are still active: their effects are always being felt. Similarly, he explained, all the good of the past is also being felt. Since most humans are still controlled by fairly robotic reflexes, the bad energy of the past far outweighs the good, and the tendency of the wheel [of Karma] is to keep moving in the same terrible direction, violence breeding more violence, hatred breeding more hatred, war breeding more war. The only way to ‘stop the wheel’ is to stop it inside yourself, by giving up bad energy and concentrating on the positive. This is by no means easy, but once you understand what Gurdjieff called ‘the horror of our situation,’ you have no choice but to try, and to keep on trying.”
My point here is that we must recognize that it is not a matter of what we believe; it is a matter of what we do. On both sides of the great divide in this country, we have people who like to cloak themselves in ideas. People who like to wear what they believe like badges, proof of who they are, proof of their moral identity. Or more accurately, they wear them like accessories as we are the greatest race of consumers this world has ever known.
But, while many champion the fact that “they still can’t control the way I think!” they (they being whomever you think attacked us) have a pretty good stranglehold on the way we treat each other, the way we act. Ultimately, we are still free to treat each other with love and respect, but it takes not thought. It takes vision and a great wrenching of the wheel of Karma, an exertion of great internal force to quell all that we have been taught, all reactionary response, all that we have inherited in this great system of fear and trauma. The more we see through the eyes of community, the more we offer help and rely on the help of others, the less fear and isolation we experience and the less we have to depend on centralized systems of control.