September 11th Didn't Change Everything: A New Yorker Looks Back One Year After the World Trade Center Attack
New Yorker Kenny Bruno Provides Some Perspective from Ground Zero. A 9/11 Message from Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Admiral Jack Shanahan USN (Ret) and Ben (from Ben & Jerry's). Summing Up the Summit: Quotes from Johannesburg
September 20, 2002
By Kenny Bruno / CorpWatch
NEW YORK (September 10, 2002) -- In the days and weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, it was often repeated that September 11th "changed everything." For the thousands who lost family, friends, jobs and health on September 11th, that was no doubt true. But by "everything" most commentators seemed to go beyond the profound personal losses caused by the attacks, to mean that historical events would now be marked as either before or after 9-11, and that both the American psyche and global politics would be transformed.
It hasn't turned out entirely that way. With apologies to my friends whose lives were changed forever by the attacks on the World Trade Center, here is a list of 10 things, local, national and international, that did not change as a result of September 11th.
Frustration and anger toward the US goes beyond fundamentalist fanatics to include European intellectuals, Third World farmers, Latin Americans of almost all classes, and the list goes on. Washington has had its foot on their necks for years, and naturally, policy makers were afraid of what they'd do if the administration lifted its foot for even a moment.
- We are again complacent about security. Human nature and confusing messages about being alert for an unspecified attack while getting on with a normal life have led to this state. A few of us are still touchy about the subway, but most are recovered enough to be grouchy about train delays. Some people detect a general softening among New Yorkers, but there is plenty of cursing of strangers for failing to move quickly enough at a green light or for taking up two parking spaces with one car. New Yorkers are having fun again, too. Clubs and concerts are full, and tourists crowd the Brooklyn Bridge and the Circle Line.
- Downtown Manhattan is vibrant. The financial district had been the one place in the country where it was hard to avoid the smells and sights of destruction. But Ground Zero became a tourist attraction and Tribeca has never gleamed brighter. Most of the cobblestone streets have been paved over and many buildings sandblasted. The area is becoming more residential and wealthier, a trend that started before September 11th. Even in areas closer to Ground Zero, it is easy to forget anything happened.
- New York has the same problems as before 9-11. Union organizers, homeless advocates and environmentalists are working on exactly what they were working on before: a living wage, housing, public transportation, health care, protection of watersheds and open spaces, to name just a few issues. Rebuilding downtown, while important, is the concern of a relatively few.
Added to the day-to-day struggles of New Yorkers, are public health concerns about the toxic dust that blanketed lower Manhattan for months. Many of those at risk for health impacts from asbestos, dioxin and heavy metals found in the air are the non-union, immigrant day laborers hired to clean up Ground Zero. Also at increased risk are school children and pregnant women in the neighborhood. What's enraging, but all too familiar, is the attitude of public officials who guaranteed that the contaminants posed no danger.
- George Bush is still immature and arrogant. One of the things we heard a lot last fall was that W. grew up, became serious and found his voice as a result of the attacks. But this "grownup" divides the world into his "friends" and "the evil ones." He just spent his vacation thumbing his nose at the largest gathering of heads of state in his tenure, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. His policies there, and elsewhere, amount to a taunt of "if you don't play by my rules I'll take my marbles and go home." Sometimes he takes his marbles elsewhere even when everyone plays by his rules.
- The Democrats are still wimps. While the Administration uses September 11th and the "War on Terrorism" as an excuse to do exactly what it wanted to do anyway, the Democrats cravenly refuse to challenge their agenda.
- We are still obsessed with the stock market. Of course we are obsessed with watching it go down instead of up, but this is more a result of the technology bubble, Enron and WorldCom than of September 11th. On the positive side, the tragedy probably helped people keep their financial losses in perspective.
- We're still dangerously addicted to oil. The US addiction to oil is the cornerstone of US policies in the Middle East, as well as a key cause of global warming. September 11th was a golden opportunity to use the patriotic fervor of Americans to begin a serious effort to reduce oil and gas use, through both conservation and a push for renewables. Instead of asking this sacrifice of Americans at a time we were willing, our leaders told us to strengthen the economy by going shopping. Not surprisingly then, we are as consumerist as ever, while claiming to have a new unity based on values deeper than love of malls.
- The Global Justice movement is alive and well. In late September of 2001, mass protests against the World Bank were canceled, and many thought a new geopolitics would mean the end of the anti-corporate globalization movement. But by January, when the World Economic Forum came to New York and was met with a 10,000 person protest march, it was clear that the movement would not allow itself to be realigned out of existence. At the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development, the protest themes were privatization, debt, structural adjustment and corporate power, just as they were before September 11th.
- The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues unabated. The attack on the United States could have led to reflection on the enemies Washington has made as a result of Israel's unjust and illegal settlement policies. Instead, the administration and congress continue to support Israel's most militant right wing government ever, while a growing number of Palestinians have embraced a desperate and inhumane suicide ethic.
- "They" still hate us. On September 13th 2001, Senator Charles Schumer of New York said, "They hate us for our freedom." The certainty with which our politicians dismissed the resentment of our country was a tragic disservice to us all, and the refrain of "they hate us" is both a misleading statement of fact and a self-fulfilling prophecy.
After the attacks, we had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to force Washington to lift its foot off most of the world, without fear of being jumped. The administration, backed by much of the public, decided instead to press down harder.
In November 2001, when I traveled abroad, people asked, "How are you? What was it like? Did you lose family?" Recently, visiting South Africa for the World Summit on Sustainable Development there was almost no talk about September 11th, and no sympathy. Now the questions are "How can you have such a stupid president?" and "What are we going to do about the US?" Our Secretary of State was booed in a convention hall where the strongest condemnation is usually expressed as, "We are deeply concerned." One year after the attacks, the US, through its own arrogance, has lost the worldwide solidarity it enjoyed for a brief moment.
September 11th changed many things, but the things it did not change are perhaps more significant. At the personal level, this is only human. We are resilient enough to forget tragedy, to eat, sleep, raise our children, fall in love, live our lives.
But September 11th was also a rare opportunity to make changes that were already desperately needed, changes that could have made the world a safer, better place. We have squandered that opportunity.
Kenny Bruno coordinates the CorpWatch Campaign for a Corporate-Free UN and is co-author of Earth Summit.biz: The Corporate Takeover of Sustainable Development (Food First Books, www.foodfirst.org). He lives and works in Brooklyn. Reposted with permission of CorpWatch (www.corpwatch.org)
A 9-11 Message from Admiral Jack Shanahan USN (Ret.), Rep. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., and Ben from Ben and Jerrys
Remember where we were on September 10, 2001?
10 million kids had no health insurance -- the reason being,
THERE WAS NO MONEY.
Hundreds of thousands of kids couldn't get into Head Start -- the reason being,
THERE WAS NO MONEY.
Thousands of schools couldn't be repaired, hundreds of thousands of teachers
couldn't be hired and, as for those 30,000 kids around the world dying of hunger
each and every day -- that was a shame but,
THERE WAS NO MONEY.
The next day, the unthinkable happened. And the corporate lobbyists went into
overdrive. And all of a sudden,
THERE WAS MONEY.
Oh, was there! -- over $50 billion of it! More than enough to fight terrorists. More than enough to rebuild a wounded country. More than enough to meet all of those neglected needs we had on September 10.
Well, now it turns out that virtually none of the billions of dollars that showed up after September 11 at the Pentagon is being used as advertised:
"The money that was lavished on the Pentagon post 9-11 will do little to prevent another terrorist attack but will continue to be squandered on weapons which were designed during the cold war to fight the former Soviet Union. The Pentagon already had all the money it needs to wage war on terrorists, the problem is that the bookkeeping scandal at the Pentagon is worse than Enron."
-- Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan USN (Ret.) Former Commander US Second Fleet
What would really honor the women and men who lost their lives on 9/11? Give voice to all those who want to get America's budget priorities back in line with our spiritual values of equality, justice, and compassion. And turn our nation into one that supports the basic needs of people instead of corporations.
We've started a national movement to do just that. It takes about 2 minutes a month and it's free. It's called TrueMajority. To join us, just click this link and fill out the form.
Summing Up the Summit: Quotes from Johannesburg
Because we focus on sustainable development, we underplay the fact that the real problem is unsustainable consumption and the pressure it generates on the Earths finite resources. The poor are not the biggest consumers of the worlds resources; the rich are.
-- Indian Minister for External Affairs Yashwant Sinha
"I don't think that mega summits are the way to secure effective implementation."
-- Fogh Rasmussen, Danish Foreign Minister.
"Instead of a rendezvous with destiny, they [the US] brought us a rendezvous with deadlock and the status quo."
-- Paul Joffe, National Wildlife Federation.
"We have plans to end the despair and offer hope. Now is the time to put those plans into action."
-- Colin Powell, US Secretary of State.
"We are proud to be from America but embarrassed by American policies."
-- Michael Brune, Rainforest Action Network.
"If this proposal had been adopted, it would have led to the Talebanisation of the world."
-- Serge Chappatte, Swiss delegate (on the US and the Vatican's push for conservative wording in a paragraph on women's reproductive health).
"We feel betrayed. The leaders of the world have behaved as if they were corporate executives."
-- Ricardo Navarro, Friends of the Earth.
"Blair: Keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe."
-- Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe President.
"Let us not be deceived when we look at a clear blue sky into thinking that all is well. All is not well."
-- Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General.
"Climate change is no longer a skeptical prognosis, but a bitter reality. This challenge demands decisive action from us."
-- Gerhard Schroeder, German Chancellor.
"Poverty and environmental degradation, if unchecked, spell catastrophe for our world."
-- Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister.
"Today in Johannesburg, humanity has a date with destiny."
-- Jacques Chirac, French President.
We go from Summit to Summit but our peoples go from abyss to abyss. It seems to be a dialogue of the deaf.
-- Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan President.
"We must confront the privileged elite who have destroyed a large part of the world."
-- Hugo Chavez.
"Too many adults are too interested in money and wealth to take notice of serious problems that affect our future."
-- 11-year-old Justin Friesen, Canada.
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