I was 12 years old and in the seventh grade when the attacks occurred on September 11, 2001. The school year was still very new; I think it was the 3rd week. It was a very nice late summer day in Columbus, Ohio and in New York City as we would all find out. It was a normal school day. It was art class, when the principal announced that there had been attacks on the World Trade Center and Washington D.C. Nobody really knew what the hell was going and we were a bunch of twelve year olds, so there was a lot of chatter. The following period was Science class with Mr. Tucker. He was the only teacher that day who didn't try to pretend nothing had happened. He wanted to show us what was on TV, but found out that wasn't allowed. He showed us the picture on the front page of MSNBC.com. It was two burning sky scrappers. I mean it was fucking crazy. These people crashed planes into buildings!?!?!
As I said the rest of the day was teachers trying to go on with their lesson plans as if this really fucking big event hadn't just happened. At lunch, by best friend at the time, Tyler, and I speculated about the attacks even though as students we were kept pretty ignorant of the facts on that day.
I got home and watched the TV. It didn't matter what station. You couldn't avoid it. I didn't really want to; at least initially. I wanted to know what happened and who had done it. I was home in time to see WTC 7 fall. The TV was filled with images of planes crashing into the south tower and the buildings collapsing. Then they finally got video of the plane crashing into the North Tower.
There were a lot of rumors that day. There were rumors of fires on Capitol Hill. Rumors of other hijacked planes. There was a rumor that Air Force One had crashed in Dayton. There were rumors of Air Strikes in Afghanistan that night. There were rumors of gas becoming super expensive.
I stayed home from school the next day. It wasn't because I was scared. I wanted to keep watching the news. I wanted to learn more about what had happened or if something else was going to happen. Looking back, that was a kind of morbid thing to do.
The estimates of the dead were astronomical in the days following the attacks. They started at upwards of twenty thousand, but slowly started dwindling down. Eventually, it was figured out that lots of people had managed to escape the World Trade Center and the death toll would be much less than feared.
There was a tremendous sense of National unity in the aftermath of the attacks. People lined up to give blood for the potential survivors of the attacks. Unfortunately, virtually no survivors were pulled out the rubble. It was still a wonderful sentiment and there was a feeling that all citizens in the United States were in this together.
Disappointingly, this sentiment did go overboard. Dissent quickly become 'unpatriotic' and the President briefly was allowed to be a de facto king. Questioning the President became like joining the Islamic Extremists who attacked us. Very soon after the attacks, the PATRIOT Act had been passed with very little debate and even less dissent. The act was a tremendous expansion of Executive power and cut deeply into our civil liberties. Trading Safety for liberty can quickly lead to tyranny.
Also, with the nation still reeling from the attacks, the President led the country into a foolish war with Iraq with virtually no questions asked. The media was afraid to ask any question, even if they knew there were giant holes in the administration's case for war, because at the time any questioning of the President was 'unpatriotic.' So, a blindly patriotic nation was led into an offensive war without any real reason other than that's what the President wants.
It took major loss of blood and treasure in Iraq to break the Patriotic fervor following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The President was still able to win reelection though. Even after clearly lying the country into a war, he was reelected in 2004 to the tune of 9/11.
Patriotism is a dangerous idea, because while it can be harmless pride, it can also lead to horrible outcomes. Belief that the state is right and is always right no matter what is what patriotic fervor can produce. Basically, I feel Patriotism to it's extreme extent is Fascism.
I also feel the need to make a distinction. I'm not a Patriot, but to a certain extent I am a Nationalist. It may sound like splitting hairs, but I think the distinction between Patriotism and Nationalism is very significant.
I think Nationalism is a love or pride in one's country. Not in the government, but the people and places. I love the ideals of the United States. I love the culture in the United States*. I don't think the United States is superior to any other country, I just really appreciate the way the United States is*.
That is not to say Nationalism isn't a dangerous idea as well. To it's extreme extent, it is as dangerous as Patriotism. It can lead to feelings of superiority or one's land or one's culture or one's blood.
In the Aftermath of 9/11, both Nationalism and Patriotism were evident in the national feeling. An example of Nationalism was the giving of blood in the immediate aftermath of the attack. An example of Patriotism was the passage of the PATRIOT Act with virtually no dissent.
I think I kind of got on my soap box there for a bit. Sorry if it was like that and I hope I made some sense.
My elbow seriously hurts now.
Thanks for reading and please comment.
*For the most part