Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Happy Patriot Day! ( A Day Late)

I am not sure that 9/11 should be a holiday, but then again, other horrific events have served as the basis for holidays in the past.

"The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" so the saying goes, memorializes Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I.  Today we call it Veterans Day, which Kurt Vonnegut, a veteran himself, who was born on that day, decried (more than once) in his novels:

“Oh, it’s just so damn cheap, so damn typical.” I said, “This used to be a day in honor of the dead of World War One, but the living couldn’t keep their grubby hands off of it, wanted the glory of the dead for themselves. So typical, so typical. Any time anything of real dignity appears in this country, it’s torn to shreds and thrown to the mob.”
And that is an interesting observation, as today, on 9/11 day (now called "Patriot Day") we less remember the sacrifices of those who died, but honor "first responders" who are living, even those far removed from New York City or even the State, even those who were in diapers when 9/11 happened.  Evenryone's a hero today, even if they did nothing heroic.  And this isn't up for debate, either.  Support the Blue!  Support the Red!  Even if they beat suspects to death and bankrupt entire cities!  Public servants are Gods!

Well, unless they are school teachers - fuck them!  Sadly, we have gone from the era of excessively beatifying school teachers (which I wrote about before) to kicking them under the school bus.  Something that cops and firemen should think about, as it may be their turn next on the wheel.

In fact, they have already been tossed aside - when Republicans, who are first to beat the drum of uber-Patriotism, voted down, again and again, medical relief for surviving responders, who are likely to have lifelong health issues from inhaling all that asbestos and powdered sheetrock.  Republicans prefer their patriots to be dead.  That way, they can't ask for more money.

And yes, being a fireman can be a dangerous job - and a traumatic one.  A friend of mine is a fireman, and he reports that, like an airline pilot (who we routinely throw under the plane) it is hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror.  He dreaded responding to his first grisly auto accident, and when it did happen, it was horrific.  The rest of us don't have to witness such things, unless we are gruesome enough to search the web for it.

Policemen have a tough job, too, but are more likely to be run over by a car than shot by a suspect.  In my travels, I see so many cops standing in the traffic lanes, handing out a ticket, convinced that flashing lights and a law about changing lanes will keep them safe.  Pull all the way off the road, please!  For your own safety!  No one wants to see a cop get hit by a truck.  So please be safe out there.

And yes, both Policemen and Firemen can end up doing heroic things. On the other hand, some policemen are utter cowards - running away from school shooters in Florida, or sitting outside a classroom for over an hour while a deranged gunman shoots one child after another.  Or waiting hours outside of a gay bar while patrons are finished off, one by one.  Not every cop is a hero.

Speaking of which, while we honor "the blue" maybe we should ask why the FBI dropped the ball on 9/11, along with the CIA who was tracking at least two of the terrorists.  Flight schools sent warnings to the FBI about Middle Eastern students who wanted to learn how to fly airliners - but were not interested in takeoffs and landings.  The reports sat on someone's desk and were never investigated

I am not tearing down law enforcement here, only pointing out that not every cop is a hero, and in fact, some are downright incompetent while others are just evil.  I live in a town where three ex-cops gunned down a black man for jogging and the local prosecutor tried to cover it up.  All of them are in jail, serving long sentences.  But that doesn't bring a young man back to life.

And yes, being a cop or a surgeon means that if you make one mistake, it may be a deadly one.  But drunkenly chasing black people and shooting them isn't some slip-up.  There is a difference - a huge difference - between negligence and malfeasance.

As for fireman, I have never heard of one running away from a fire.  But maybe we just don't hear about that as much.  On 9/11 many heroically ran to what became a certain death.  I doubt many of us could do that.

But you need not wear a uniform to be a hero. The passengers on that fourth plane, once they knew what was going on, stormed the cockpit and died trying to save the plane and fellow passengers.  They failed to save themselves, but no doubt saved the lives of people on the ground in DC.  Heroism doesn't come with the uniform, but then again, if you wear a uniform, it may be thrust upon you, at a time and place not of your choosing.

I wrote before how we were in Newfoundland during a 9/11 anniversary.  By the way, you  should visit there sometime, and spend at least a month there.  The scenery is beautiful and Newfies are swell people.  But by 9/11 you should be heading back to the ferry - it gets cold quickly.  Anyway, they had a CBC radio programme on, with a celebration of 9/11 with the children singing songs and politicians giving speeches.  From their perspective, 9/11 was the day that half the Atlantic air traffic ended up in their backyard and Newfies graciously opened up their homes to stranded travelers.  The horror of that day was not as intense for them.

And while the thought was nice, we were a little disconcerted when Newfies, upon discovering we were Americans, offered us 9/11 greetings.  Happy 9/11 Day!  I am sure Hallmark is already on this.  (Edit:  Apparently someone already has, as shown in the image above).

Of course, there is ample precedence for this.  As Vonnegut noted, November 11th turned from a "remembrance day" to a day about the living - and a vacation holiday.  Memorial day is the same way - less about parades and speeches and red-white-and-blue bunting (when I was a kid), and more about retail sales and the first day of summer.  It is just a day off from work, these days.

Even religious holidays are co-opted this way.  Christmas is all about Santa and presents - and a week off from work at the end of the year.   Easter - "celebrating" the brutal murder of Jesus - is about bunnies and candy - and a long weekend, if you are lucky.

I am sure that (if not already) within a few years, people will be talking around the water cooler about where they plan on going for 9/11 day or "Patriot Day" as it is now officially called.  "I'm taking the wife and kids to Disney for 9/11 - they put on a real good fireworks show for the holiday!  The kids just love it!  Waddya doing with your family?"  "Oh, just having the in-laws over for a barbecue.  Get a chance to relax in the backyard around the pool!"

It is hard to believe that it was over 20 years ago now.  An entire generation has been raised since this happened, and many more were just children when it occurred.  I cannot fathom how this affects their thinking.  For young people who were in school that day, I suspect it created some PTSD.  For young people who weren't born yet that day (or were mere infants or toddlers) I suspect they are tired of hearing about it.  A bunch of boomer talk to them, no doubt.

We should honor the dead - and those veterans of that day who lost co-workers and loved ones, and who themselves were injured.  We should remember.  But it should not be turned into another commercial, crass holiday, like so many others have become.

And yet, it may be too late already.  I received an e-mail on Sunday (one of the many desperate e-mails from retailers I have been receiving lately) from a company that sells RV window shades.  "We should always remember the sacrifices first responders made that day!" they crowed, "And to honor them, we are offering 9-11% off on all window awnings!  Click here to BUY NOW!"

Have they no shame?  Apparently not!

UPDATE: we drove down the Lincoln Highway today and stopped by the flight 93 memorial. It is very sobering.