Five Years After 9/11: Now What?
By Horace Coleman
The fifth anniversary of 9/11 fell on a Monday in 2006. TV, newspapers, radio, and magazines were full of stories about it. The Sunday newspaper supplement Parade was published on September 10 this year. In it was an "as-told-to" story about a guy named Wilton Sekzer.
Sekzer, a Vietnam veteran, had a son named Jason. Who worked at the World Trade Center. In Building One, on the 105th floor. Where Cantor Fitzgerald, the firm that lost more than 600 employees on 9/11, had offices.
Wilton Sekzer describes himself as "a retired New York City cop. I mean, who am I?" To me, Sekzer comes off as a (formerly) true-believing, 100% red-blooded patriot—and no fool. "I volunteered for Vietnam in July 1965," he says. "I grew up knowing that you were expected to answer when your country made the call. There was no such thing as 'Well, I wonder if my country's right? Is anybody lying to me about this?' You grew up saying, 'If the bugle calls, you go.' "
Saddened and angered by his son's death, Sekzer wanted revenge. He believed Bush and the party line. He emailed military branches, asking to have his son's name put on ordnance used in Iraq. "I'm from the old school. Certain people walk on water. The president of the United States is one of them."
Sekzer describes his reaction, when he heard Bush say there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11, this way: "I almost jumped out of my chair. I said, 'What is he talking about? What the hell did we go in there for? If Saddam didn't have anything to do with 9/11, then why did we go in there?' "
Good questions. Unfortunately, not enough people have the sense or courage to ask them. A smug fog of refusing to make that realization, ducking the burden, and jingoism covers the country. Sekzer is blunt: "I feel that the government exploited my feelings of patriotism. But I was so insane with wanting to get even, I was willing to believe anything."
You see a green guy run out of your house, carrying your DVD player and dropping your silverware. You can't catch him, so you beat up the purple guy standing on the corner three blocks away, because you know he's a thief and you never liked him anyway.
The old school I attended taught me to not believe anyone without reservations. Not because of your relationship with them, their soothing words, their pleasant personality, or their nice smile. Not even your mama—she might be lying about that bicycle for Christmas.
There's no draft, and it's hard to get enough people to enlist. No Iraqi oil is paying for the war there. No tax increase here is helping to pay for this side trip. Instead, there's a ballooning trade deficit, mounting national debt, an economy that's slip-sliding, involuntary extensions in the war zone, and redeployments there.
Troops suffer while the military industrial complex that President (and former soldier) Eisenhower warned us about grows obese on excessively lucrative contracts and subcontracts. Civilians proudly "support our troops" by patting themselves on the back for staying the wrong course.
Of course, some people do walk on water. For about two steps. Don't let them take you down with them. All lifesavers learn that.
To quote Wilton Sekzer again, "It's a terrible thing if someone like me can't trust his president. I began to wonder what the hell's with the whole system." It is terrible. But you're better off if you wonder and then act to satisfy the curiosity and skepticism you should have. After all, the last I heard of Santa Claus, he was supposedly headed for Iran.
The current regime is peopled by theorists more interested in political ideology than reality and practicality. The majority of the electorate seems to have a "let's you and him go fight while I go shopping" attitude. Collectively, it has bad judgment, less sense, no reliable information, and little foresight. Our "leadership" seems to be worse—when it does anything other than bringing home the bacon, featherbedding, and log rolling.
Winston Churchill supposedly said, "Democracy is the worst form of government—except for all the others." Makes you go hmm. Cynicism is no substitute for reasonable and responsible action, however; neither is passing the buck or doing nothing. And if we're flattening the globe into a piratical corporatocracy, where's my share of the loot? Where's yours?
Horace Coleman is a veteran, poet and writer. He is also a VVAW contact in California.