Sunday, April 30

REFLECTIONS ON UNITED 93: OUTRAGE TO SPARE

Watching United 93 was a unique experience. The half-empty theater was completely silent -- not a sneeze, not a squeak of a chair throughout, and the audience filed out at the end in total quiet. Real-time action circled among the plane to air traffic controllers to the FAA to military. The intensity of the anxiety being displayed on the screen saturated every moment. I was often aware of tears rolling down my cheeks but I didn't know how tense I was until I got up to leave and found my legs were like rubber, I was slightly dizzy and very nauseous.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I've yet to hear anyone else describe their reactions to the film as being other than renewed hatred for the terrorists. As for me, I was angry and fiercely depressed. Why oh why did it take so long to scramble a military response that day; where were all the fighters? As one desperate major cried out, how could there only be four planes available on the entire eastern seaboard? Why did it take so long to contact the president or vice president to get permission for a shootdown? But most of all, why did our leaders divert attention from the task of rooting out the planners of these heinous acts? What the hell were they thinking, invading Iraq instead of pursuing Al Qaeda to the ends of the earth? Four and a half years later not a single person responsible for 9/11 has faced an American court.

What does it take to rouse Americans' sense of outrage? This administration has corrupted our deepest values and pandered to and encouraged our ugliest instincts. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have declared themselves above the law, have violated the Constitution and Bill of Rights, have flouted international conventions that define just war and humane treatment of prisoners, have scrapped decades of progress in civil liberties at home, have sculpted policies that have increased the ranks of the poor and uninsured and mortgaged our children's and grandchildren's futures... and our biggest worry is higher gas prices.

Conventional wisdom has said for years now that the acts of the passengers on United 93 have left a legacy in that no Americans will ever again surrender to a hijacking, they will fight the terrorists next time. I believe that may be true, and I laud their courage as I weep for their innocent lost lives. But where's that fighting spirit when it comes to the destructive path that Bush and Cheney have taken us down for the past six years? The terrorists hate us, granted, but they're our enemies. Have we no outrage to share when our very own leaders seek to destroy our most enduring institutions, our national unity, our respect among the world's nations?

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