things I’m thankful for, this 9/11th
Three years ago, I wrote a post in the wake of the Katrina disaster that referred to one of my favorite speeches by Martin Luther King—a speech where King made the following observation: “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”
We can’t have a politic anymore that allows people in New Orleans to drown while the President ignores them. We can’t have a politic that sends our country into the worst recession of a generation, while the President cuts taxes on the richest one percent of us. We can’t have a politic where the President sends over 4,000 men and women to die in Iraq, and thousands more to be wounded, while he jokes about having given up his golf game, because it makes him look bad to play golf while we’re at war.
We can’t have a politic anymore where, not only are the bootless expected to pull themselves up by their own bootstrings, but they’re disenfranchised from voting because of their bootlessness.
Earlier today, I was at a meeting where the person who was running the meeting asked us, as part of the introductions, to say something about 9/11. At first, I thought it was a mistake. After all, even the presidential campaigns have suspended advertising to commemmorate the day–do we really want to be talking about it at this political meeting?
But as people went around introducing themselves, it occurred to me that I have a lot to be grateful for, when I think about 9/11. Here’s what I said:
Hi, I’m landismom, and my daughter is almost 9. This morning, when we were getting ready to leave the house, she looked at the school calendar, and said, “9/11 Remembrance–what’s that?”
And I was so happy that she did.
After September 11, both my husband and I were working as organizers, and in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, we knew people who were being detained, knew people who were foreign nationals who were prevented from coming back into the country because of their political beliefs, knew someone who was questioned by the police because he was taking pictures of an oil refinery.
I was terrified that we needed to find new work, and establish guardianship for our daughter, terrified that in the lockdown on civil liberties that those of us who have been active on the left would be jailed, and that my daughter would be taken by the state.
Some terrible things happened to this country after 9/11, chief among them the Patriot Act. But the fact of the matter is that the work that we all do—that we community organizers, who are so recently belittled by the GOP, have been and continue to do—kept this country from sliding into utter fascism. And I’m grateful for that.
In September and October of 2001, when most of the country was fearing anthrax and future terrorist attacks, the thing I worried most about (well, after we got through with the miscarriage) was being separated from my only child by my government, because I was a leftist.
I’m fortunate, in that I don’t (yet) live in a country that punishes people for their political beliefs (though try telling that to members of the Communist Party). There are many other parts of the world where children grow up without their parents, where wives lose their husbands, where mothers never see their adult sons alive again because they are independent reporters, or trade unionists, or political party activists. And even in this country, we have a fairly well-established tradition of persecuting activists on the left.
We all have a collective responsibility to make sure this country never again represses people for their political beliefs. We all need to work together to make sure that our country lives up to the ideals on which it was founded.