Bob Franken

9/11 Plus 20

By Bob Franken

9/11 PLUS 20

In the shattered aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 – 9/11 – members of Congress from both parties gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building to sing “God Bless America.” It had been the kind of attack that would bring out the “United” in United States, like “Remember Pearl Harbor” did on Dec. 7, 1941.
But it wasn’t long after Pearl Harbor that the United States government rounded up Japanese Americans and threw them into internment camps. Likewise, it wasn’t long after 9/11 that the rest of the U.S. brutalized Muslim Americans, relying on a widespread and harsh prejudice that is prevalent to this day. We overreached with the Patriot Act, engaged in torture and basically exacted revenge.
But unlike 9/11, when World War II was over, the baby boomers who followed enjoyed a new prosperity as the economy exploded. Of course, it was accomplished on borrowed money, and we got spoiled by relying on credit, or as we called it, “deficit spending.”
Worst of all, we spun through a blur of lies and defeats on the world stage. Vietnam weakened us. Even when we lorded over the collapse of the Soviet Union that we thought was a victory with the end of the Cold War, that was a fiction. A few decades later, it seemed to some that Vladimir Putin’s Russia had a role in choosing the president of the United States.

We were accumulating enemies. A invigorated China was speeding past us. The Muslim world, whether it be Shia Iran or Sunni countries, joined in their hatred of the United States. There were two reasons: our reflexive support of Israel, which became like our 51st state, and our senseless hatred of Muslims at home.
After preliminary acts of terrorism, there was 9/11, in which Osama bin Laden led al-Qaeda in attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in suburban Washington and what might have been the Capitol building in Washington were it not for heroic passengers on their plane who attacked their hijackers, risking certain death. Their aircraft crashed to the earth in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
All together nearly 3,000 Americans and American visitors died on 9/11. The World Trade Center was left in total rubble, a wing of the Pentagon was smashed, and an empty field in Shanksville became a memorial to heroic American sacrifice.
Instead of uniting us, the past 20 years have been a mixed bag. True, the civil-rights gains have been not insignificant. But the good will that combined with the bad will of Jim Crow meant we paid too heavy a price. The lingering resentments of racial prejudice have continued to divide us. Violence from law enforcement has been met with street violence.
After the Vietnam War, the United States was faced with the reality of its military defeat once layers of deceit by civilian and military leaders were peeled away.
The obvious weakness of our country eventually emboldened the world’s enemies and extremists to take on an enfeebled United States with the 9/11 attacks.
Donald Trump’s victory was the manifestation of the continuing slow erosion the U.S. of A., and his presidency a constant reminder of the smoldering antipathies that burst into flames. Trump was defeated, but millions of people genuinely believe his “big lie,” that he had the 2020 election stolen from him. He has enacted a mass con job that could only be possible in an environment of national cynicism.
Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, will visit all three of the 9/11 memorial sites on this 20th anniversary. They are really symbols of national anger and humiliation, courtesy of the terrorists who pulled off the attacks.
The U.S. Capitol Building, which most guesses believe to be the third intended target, was attacked by Trump-inspired domestic terrorists less than a year ago, proof that the freedoms we brag about continue to crumble.

(c) 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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