Memories of 9/11 September 11, 2010Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Random Observations.
My father died at the end of 1990. At first, my mother seemed to be coping reasonably well. I visited her every day, and though it seemed to me that she drank too much, it wasn’t until my husband took early retirement and the two of us moved from Maryland to Florida that Mom finally fell apart. Mom was one of a family of eight children, six of whom lived to adulthood, and before marrying my father, Mom worked for the Girl Scouts and lived in a group house. December 13, 1990, when she was 66 years old, was the first day in Mom’s life she had ever lived alone.
In August 2001, two years after I moved to Florida, Mom came close to dying, of what today I believe was alcoholic malnutrition. After about a week in the hospital, she was sent home again. Two weeks or so later, she came close to dying a second time, of an infection she had picked up during her first stay in the hospital. This time, she ended up in a nursing home for a few days.
Naturally, both of my brothers and I leaped into action. Mid-September 2001 was my turn to fly across the country and spend time with Mom.
Mom loved avocados. In season, nothing made a better lunch, she declared. On September 11, 2001, at about 9:05 or so in the morning, I was standing in the kitchen of my childhood home, peeling an avocado that I hoped would tempt Mom’s appetite, when the telephone rang. “Turn on the television,” my husband said abruptly from Florida.
“And hello to you too,” I said. “How are you? What’s up?”
“TURN ON THE DAMN TELEVISION!” my husband roared. It was the first and last time my husband has ever roared, at anyone, for any reason.
I turned on the television. I watched the south tower collapse at 9:59 a.m.; I watched the north tower collapse at 10:28. I spent most of the day listening to the wind whistle through Dan Rather’s dentures, too stunned by what I was seeing even to channel-surf away to look for another news anchor. I never did make it to the nursing home to see Mom that day.
That evening, I went to a service that my Maryland Episcopal priest had hurriedly whomped together with a Lutheran pastor friend of his, held at a community center near where Jerry and I had lived. Ken had expected perhaps 30 people to attend this service; my estimate was that there were 300 people crammed into the room, all of us bewildered, all of us grieving.
The next day, when I finally went to see Mom, I told her, “We’re at war.” She asked with whom, and I had to tell her I had no idea. Nine years later, I’m still not entirely sure. (Terrorism, which is not an entity but a tactic? Liberalism? . . . Whom is Glenn Beck demonizing today?)
Americans were ready to come together during the next few days, united by our grief, our bewilderment, and our anger. President George W. Bush, who had already enacted the first of the “bailouts for billionaires” that would add trillions of dollars to the national debt, had nothing more inspiring to tell the nation than to “Go shopping.” It’s patriotic to spend money you don’t have buying items you don’t need, Bush implicitly told the nation. Go into debt; debt is super-patriotic.
Within days, Bush began twisting 9/11 into his opportunity to prosecute the war with Iraq that Dick Cheney had been planning for more than twelve years, the war that would definitively establish the United States as a “shock and awe” dominator with a permanent base in the Middle East and permanent control over Iraq’s oil. In December 2001, Bush let Osama escape (I believe) by diverting U.S. resources away from Afghanistan in preparation for his invasion of Iraq. Did Bush deliberately let Osama escape? I only know that before he got into politics, George W. Bush went bankrupt three times, and each time he was bailed out of bankruptcy by a consortium of his father’s friends that included Salem bin Laden, Osama’s older brother. (For his first bankrupted business, Arbusto Oil, Bush failed to find any oil. In Texas!)
Good luck with your plan for U.S. domination of the Middle East, Georgie and Dickie. The two of you added seven TRILLION dollars to the national debt, with your “bailouts for billionaires” and your pretense that your voluntary war in Iraq was “emergency spending,” so that you could make your military excesses invisible to the general public. The United States may eventually be the dominant power in the Middle East. Perhaps President Palin’s tax gifts to Republican billionaires will do the trick.
Nine years to the day after 9/11, I find today’s Republican demonization of Islam profoundly distressing — and a HUGE gift to the ideologues of al Qaeda, whose message has always been that the United States as a nation hates and fears Islam. Masses of ignoramuses around the country, virtually all of them Tea Bigots, are ranting their violent opposition to Muslim centers of peaceful worship, whether the YMCA-like community center planned for somewhat less than half a mile from Ground Zero, or mosques planned for Republican/Tea Bigot hotbeds such as Tennessee. So what if a mosque is being proposed to serve a faith community that has lived in peace with its neighbors for decades? The United States must not practice religious freedom now, when arguably it is most important, or the terrorists will win.
As I write these words, it remains up in the air whether a north-Florida bigot, the “Reverend” Terry Jones, will memorialize today by burning copies of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam; whether a Tennessee bigot, the “Reverend” Bob Old, will do so; or whether conservative “Christians” around the country will display their devotion to the God of Love by doing so. (By an amazing coincidence, both the “Reverend” Jones and Rush Limbaugh are alumni of the Cape Girardeau Central High School Class of 1969.)
In favor of their book-burning and other acts of hatred, conservatives are advancing arguments of stunning speciousness. “Saudi Arabia won’t even allow Christians to gather in public anywhere in their country!” they exclaim. “Communist China also has the right idea about how their citizenry should be governed.”
It doesn’t seem to occur to these “Christians” that “The bad guys do it, so that makes it perfectly all right for the good guys to do it” is not exactly the most valid argument the world has ever seen. Jesus told his followers to love their enemies, to pray for those who persecuted them, and to bless those who cursed them. Jesus told his followers to forgive their enemies not just once, but “seventy times seven,” a synonym for “infinitely.” Nowhere in the Christian Testament can I find a depiction of Jesus telling his followers to persecute mourners by picketing funerals with “God hates gays” signs, or to burn books, urinate on the symbols of someone else’s religion, or commit murder in the name of the man who went to his own death rather than even cause injury to his enemies.
Conservative “Christians” interpret Jesus’s teachings to mean, “Hate gays; hate Muslims; hate liberals; hate brown-skinned people; hate, sit in judgment upon, and condemn those who dare to oppose your theology.” “You don’t understand reality,” a bigot tweeted me yesterday. You’re right, bigot: I don’t think I will ever understand YOUR “reality.”
I am no friend to Islam. I can’t see how any sane woman could participate in that religion — but then again, I can’t understand how any sane woman could be a Mormon, a Roman Catholic, or any other religion of sacralized misogyny.
But at least I have read the Qur’an, not just once, but repeatedly. If you have not read the Qur’an, gentle web surfer, I urge you to do so. It’s brief — only about 80,000 words long, the length of a novel you’d take to the beach. It’s not difficult to read, either, being a compendium of Muhammad’s sermons to his followers, most of whom were even more theologically ignorant than himself. (Muhammad told his followers, for example, that when Mary of Nazareth complained that labor pains hurt after one whole hour of pregnancy, Allah told her, “Suck it up; eat a date” (Sura 19), and then struck her mute for her impiety.)
At a rough guess, 70 percent of the Qur’an consists of rants about Hell — the burning agony, the flames of torment, the eternal anguish, yadda yadda yadda. Every life form in the Universe is fated to end up in Hell, with the exception of male Muslims and perhaps a few of their female possessions, a.k.a. wives and daughters. (The Qur’an is unclear to me on whether female Muslim go to heaven or get transformed into houris, beautiful sex slaves.) If you skim the rants about Hell, you can get through the Qur’an in a few hours.
But conservative “Christians” have by and large not read more of their own holy book, beyond a few passages in the Christian Testament memorized by the extremely devout. They are ranting their rants and hating their hate in the name of the Prince of Peace, secure in their certainty that God loves bigotry best.
The United States was founded on the belief in what FDR called the “Four Freedoms”: Freedom of speech; freedom from want; freedom from fear; and freedom to practice whatever religion one chooses, or no religion at all if that is one’s choice. On September 11, 2010, Republicans and Tea Bigots are telling the nation that to allow Muslims freedom of religion is to allow the terrorists to win.
If they prevail, terrorism will have won.