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Back to normal?

By Kimberley Lindsay Wilson
web posted September 9, 2002

It's a year later from September 11, 2001, and life is not back to what passed for normal on September 10th. Maybe it never will be. Maybe it shouldn't be. There are sincere people on both sides of the political aisle who make pretty good arguments that normal is what got us into this mess in the first place.

There is talk of making 9/11 a national holiday but I think this idea won't get past the talking stage because Americans don't like being reminded of their failures. It's simply not in our national culture. Americans love winners, hate losers and that's all there is to it. And make no mistake, 9/11 was failure.

In the blink of a startled eye, thousands of ordinary people who were just minding their own business were crushed, scalded, incinerated, vaporized and for those who had to jump from the World Trade Center, splattered across the New York City sidewalk like rotten fruit. If that's not a failure of the system, I don't know what is. Everything that was supposed to protect those people either failed or wasn't in position to even give it a try.

Palestinians celebrating on September 11, 2001
Palestinians celebrating on September 11, 2001

Although the politicians, journalists, and the grief counselors at your kid's school and your job will argue differently, the United States was the big loser on 9/11. Palestinians danced for joy in the streets, Egyptians clapped and cheered in modern restaurants, and that afternoon in Washington, DC I saw a delighted young clerk at gas station convenience store celebrate, momentarily oblivious to me and the two other American customers present. Judging by his accent, clothes and the text books near the cash register, I assume he was a North African born college student. Call these examples aberrations, all you want but the folks on the Arab "street" know very well who won on that day.

The World Trade Center will be rebuilt, of course. However, instead of rebuilding it exactly as it was, the new design will most certainly be a smaller group of four or five unimpressive looking buildings surrounding a park. Many people, admit, uncomfortably that an exact replica of the original towers would be too tempting a target for future terrorism and besides, who would be willing to work in it anyway? They have a point but in the face of all the endless talk of and "not letting the terrorists win by making us change our ways" it's obvious that they have done just that.

Have you flown lately? I'm really sick of reading about wheel chair bound, half-blind 94-year old grandmothers being strip searched. The sight of two-year olds being patted down and made to take off their shoes would be comic if it weren't so embarrassing. Several women, I know, have complained that the airport security drones got way too much enjoyment out of searching them.

Women across the country have protested that they were fondled and groped by our new crack air port security inspectors. Other friends of mine have wearily spoken about treated with naked rudeness by arrogant airport employees.

Has any of this indignity done any good? Probably not. Recently reporters from the New York Daily News boarded planes with forbidden objects such as box cutters and knives in their luggage to test the supposedly tough new security measures. All of the reporters and their luggage made it through.

Now doesn't that make you feel all safe and warm?

The truth is, in the year since 9/11 America really hasn't gotten serious about this "war" we're now in. Most of us just want to forget what happened. Perhaps, it's because some of us know, deep in our hearts that our country and it's world wide image took a loss on that terrible day. Perhaps, it's because the knowledge that America is no longer a safe haven from the insanity of the rest of the world is too much to for most of us to contemplate. We hold memorial services, we talk about life going on and flee to the arms of fantasy. Did you notice that Hollywood had one of it's best years ever? We flocked to the movies. We watched "American Idol," longed for the return of "The Sopranos" (I know I do) and adults actually had animated discussions about Britney Spears. Anything -- anything but deal with the reality of our situation.

So are we going to go to war on Iraq, or what? Are we ever going to pull ourselves out of the slimy embrace of the Saudis? Who knows? But hey, you can still see "Star Wars" at the theater and the new "Buffy" episodes will be on TV soon, so everything's gotten back to normal, right?

Kimberley Lindsay Wilson Author of Work It! The Black Woman's Guide to Success at Work (Iuniverse, ISBN 059500122X, $8.95) & Eleven Things Mama Should Have Told You About Men (African American Images, September 2000, ISBN: 0913543691, $12.95) You can find her on the web at http://members.aol.com/wilsonhope/aaa/index.html or at the Black Writers Help Desk.


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