by Roxanne Tellier
In 2001, I had a small eBay business that was doing pretty well. I had five people that worked with me to expedite the collectibles that I shipped around the world. About 90% of my business income came from American buyers.
That summer had been slow, as summers were, but as we headed into September, and with the holiday season approaching, I wasn’t worried about ramping back up to pay my staff. In fact, in preparation for the busy season, my husband and I had planned a well-earned vacation to Western Canada, to see my family there. We would be flying out on September 13th.
But, as the old Yiddish adage warns, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, God may have been laughing, but no one else was, on the morning of September 11th, 2001. A lot of people’s plans forever changed that day, and the world was never quite the same.
I was listening to the Howard Stern show that morning. When Howard first began to talk about the breaking news, there was an air of disbelief. Jokes were being made, and the conversation that Stern had been having with someone about trying to make time with Pam Anderson continued for another fifteen or twenty minutes.
When the second plane hit, the tone changed greatly, although no one had yet quite realized what had happened. One news anchor even suggested that “there might be some issue with the navigation systems on the planes that is sending them into the buildings”.
It was around then that the penny dropped, and Stern began to say that America was under attack. Viewing the video accompanying the breaking news, he declared that it was obviously a suicide mission, and that America was now at war. But with whom?
In the next few days, the nation grappled with the aftermath, and the information that they had been attacked by a group led by religious fanatic Osama Bin Laden, who, rather than resembling the sort of sophisticated, well-funded groups that films had taught them were what their enemy looked like, was instead a man in a robe and a turban, with a silly beard, who lived in a cave.
Or so we all thought. In actual truth, he was the multimillionaire son of one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia.
Bin Laden had previously attacked two American embassies, in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as sending suicide bombers to attack the USS Cole in October of 2000, while she was being refueled in a Yemen harbour. America was seemingly oblivious. After all, Bin Laden didn’t seem to be using any kind of military playbook that was respected in the United States; he wasn’t trying to physically invade the country, nor did he seem to be after our natural resources – as colonists and invaders tend to do. No, Bin Laden wanted to spiritually bankrupt America and wipe out the American Dream.
And, as Michael Moore wrote recently,
“He knew that unlike his own deep religious beliefs, ours were all talk, all show. He knew that our sect of Christianity is often just a big con — “love your neighbor” as long as they’re white like you; “the last in line (40 million in poverty)” shall be “first” and the Elon Musks and Mark Zuckerbergs “will be last.“ Ha! Never. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” as long they‘re not Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden; “feed the hungry” (no raise in food stamps from1962 until last week. Last week!).
…. It was different for bin Laden—he wasn’t faking it. He knew the strength of his fundamentalism and knew that he could find some schmucks to sign up to fly planes into buildings in exchange for the promise of eternal glory. Bin Laden understood the way we used our Good Book — to ban abortion or police homosexuality — because bin Laden was doing the same thing, only even more capably and at an even more destructive scale.”Michael Moore, Substack, Sept. 2021.
Then-president George W. Bush first used the term “war on terrorism” on September 16, 2001, and then “war on terror” a few days later in a formal speech to Congress when he asked that America go to war in Afghanistan.
Now the frightened and devastated citizens of America had a common enemy, and they would send all of their animosity (along with troops and trillions of dollars) to fight this adversary.
Americans came together. They hugged strangers on the streets and on subway platforms, sent huge donations to missions meant to comfort the families of the missing and dead, and bought each other drinks in pubs.
The next time America would come together in such a fashion would be in the Spring of 2020, but, this time, it would only last for a few months.
In that fall of 2001, Americans came together in a dramatic show of patriotism. They were one people, regardless of where they came from, what sort of work they did, how much money they had, or what kind of music they liked. They drew together and found enormous strength in that solidarity.
They came together so completely that they essentially forced out the rest of the world. I lost my little eBay company when the corporation put into place all sorts of perks for their American buyers and sellers. There were fees waived, and in many cases, the costs of shipping and handling were waived, if the exchange was being conducted within the United States.
Ebay-ers were encouraged to “Buy American!” And they did. And by the next spring, my little business was bankrupt. My staff actually fired themselves, knowing that I was paying their salaries out of my own pocket, not the proceeds of sales. And that was that. America came together, and shut out the rest of the world so that it could grieve and heal itself within itself.
Fast forward nearly twenty years to the spring of 2020, when North Americans became aware of a new enemy, a pandemic, which was named COVID-19. In the first few months of this new ‘shock and awe’, Americans pulled together to try and protect themselves, isolating and attempting to get a handle on how to protect themselves and each other. People went to great lengths to distance from each other. There was panic buying in the supermarkets, with people hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. (I even bought a package of frozen pancakes just because there was only one package left, and I didn’t know when there’d be another shipment to my store.)
Remember how we’d bang pots and pans and make a ‘joyful noise’ to let first responders and health care workers know how much we appreciated the hard work they were doing to try and save the lives of our families and friends?
How does that square with the anti mask/anti vaccine mobs who now try to block ambulances and health care workers from entering hospitals, to make their wrong-headed points?
In those twenty years since 9/11, North America changed significantly. It wasn’t just the United States that was attacked that day; no one who was impacted on September 11th was ever quite the same again.
“The 9/11 attacks enabled Republicans to tar those who questioned the administration’s economic or foreign policies as un-American: either socialists or traitors making the nation vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Surely, such people should not have a voice at the polls. Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression began to shut Democratic voices out of our government, aided by a series of Supreme Court decisions. In 2010, the court opened the floodgates of corporate money into our elections to sway voters; in 2013, it gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act; in 2021, it said that election laws that affected different groups of voters unevenly were not unconstitutional.
And now we grapple with the logical extension of that argument as a former Republican president claims he won the 2020 election because, all evidence to the contrary, Democratic votes were fraudulent.“Heather Cox Richardson, Substack, Sept 11, 2020
North America changed – the world changed. Under the guise of protecting it’s citizens, actual rights and freedoms were cancelled in the U.S. and Canada, and never returned. A new suspicion and fear of immigrants, and of those who were of foreign descent reached its logical conclusion in America’s Homeland Security, which began as an agency created to protect America and her people, but evolved into a force whose prime directive was discovering and expelling people they suspected were in the country illegally. Could Trump have pulled off his Muslim Ban of 2017 without the fear of Islam that had been drummed into FOX viewers for over a decade? Unlikely.
(That ban was only officially overturned after Biden took office in January 2021.)
The world changed, and we became harder, more cynical, and more suspicious of others. Over the last twenty years, the right and the left have become increasingly partisan, to the point where Biden’s hope of bipartisan governance in the U.S. is taken as a joke. We’re more likely to see a Civil War Part Deux than an America where Republicans let Democrats have a victory, even if they have to disenfranchise every one of their own voters to do so.
In the end, it does seem like Bin Laden actually won. His plan was to divide to conquer, and that has certainly happened. Politically, we are at war with ourselves. Inequality has never been higher, and democracy is on the table, with the Sword of Damocles dangling over its head.
And when North America was asked to pull together to defeat the common enemy of a global pandemic, a vocal minority screamed “NO!”
3,000 people died in New York City on 9/11, and that was enough to change the world. In the worst days of COVID-19, we lost 3,000 or more every single day. Where are their memorials?
The easy way out would be to simply blame Trump, and his administration’s confusing and contradictory lack of a proper plan that the nation could get behind. Mistakes were made, because this is a ‘novel’ virus, but flip flopping on how to move forward as the numbers of the sick and dead rose did no favours to anyone.
I was talking with someone recently who, while masked and vacced himself, still has a soft spot for those who continue to behave as though the virus is a joke. He said that we have to allow those dissenters to have their opinions and ideas, whether or not we agree, in a free society.
All well and good, I said, but – I don’t see these ‘anti’ people coming forward with any positive and helpful suggestions as to how to stop the sickness or to help those who are ill or dying. In fact, they’re actively encouraging sickness and death with their rallies and protests.
Could we not have simply TRIED following the science, and have all of us joining in masking and vaccing? That way, if we did, and we didn’t end or drastically curtail the virus, we could try THEIR solutions. History has shown that a united front, that carries on together fighting a common enemy until they are defeated, is more likely to succeed and eventually win a battle.
But he had no answer. Because those protestors have no solutions, only offended claims of victimisation, debunked theories and controversial, potentially life-threatening, alternatives to modern medicine.
Bin Laden may lie in a watery grave, but the damage done to North America by his actions has continued to resonate every single day since 9/11. So, who really won that war on terror?
It just doesn’t seem like it was us.