Dear Prof. Chomsky,
Today is the tenth anniversary of September 11th. I remember being woken by a call from my mother. In a panic she screamed, “We have been attacked!” We watched the second plane crash together. It was horrendous. We didn’t know anyone who died that day, being a native Texan, New York seems so far away, but it devastated my mother and I. My entire city was in ‘shock and disbelief’, companies in downtown Houston released employees from work and evacuated office buildings, I didn’t go to school that day. When I did return to class, I asked my teacher how she was doing, she started crying.
It was days before I heard any laughter. I spent most of that time watching continuous news coverage, flipping the channel when the on-air personality began to irritate me. I was glad when SNL returned for their first show after the national tragedy. The country needed to hear a joke.
We also needed answers. The President told the country that the attackers were a group of radical Islāmic fundamentalist that hate us for our freedom. Who hates freedom? For many these answers seemed incomplete, so they created their own. The number of 9/11 conspiracy theories is infinite. When I hear one I just reply abruptly, “The only conspiracies are why it happened, why we couldn’t stop it from happening and what’s done in our name since it happened.” I’m usually served a disapproving look with silence.
To protect us from further attack, we would sacrifice our right to privacy. I asked my uncle his thoughts on the Patriot Act, a loving father, great American and man I respect. His reply was patriotic, “The government can tap my phone if it will help protect our country.” I believe the government should protect the innocent but not investigate the innocent.
Somewhere between far left conspiracy and extreme conservative patriotism are the issues that matter, the fear propagated on the people in a time of mourning, the multiple wars and their many casualties, policies of torture, militarized democratization and suspension of citizen rights.
Today the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is rebuilding One World Trade Center around the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, using mostly imported building material and paid for by the nurses, teachers and maintenance workers using the tollways on their daily commute. At the same time, some are trying to privatize healthcare and education. Is there a better way to honor the victims of 9/11, the casualties of the war-on-terror and the ‘Next Greatest Generation’ than more office space? Maybe we can take our lead from the survivors, widows and family members who lost loved ones and the first responders who risked there lives and health that terrible day and show them our support and appreciation. If they can dust themselves off, so can we.
Ps. My mother asked me a few weeks before Operation Enduring Freedom why so many people were protesting. I told her that, “peaceful protests have changed the world.” I didn’t tell her what my plans were that night. “Enduring”, wasn’t that an interesting choice?
1: to undergo (as a hardship) especially without giving in : suffer <endured great pain>
2: to regard with acceptance or tolerance <could not endure noisy children>
1: to continue in the same state : last <the style endured for centuries>
2: to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding endure>
“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit. (p.73)”
— Noam Chomsky (Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World)
Was there an alternative?
Books by Prof. Noam Chomsky
Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World
The Essential Chomsky (New Press Essential) by Noam Chomsky
Audio by Prof. Noam Chomsky
What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World