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Sunday 11 September 2011


We all remember exactly where we were ten years ago today, so I'll skip that part. Some of you lost family members, friends, jobs or became injured when terrorists attacked the US and I'm very sorry for your loss.

For the rest of us, and most of the people watching TV coverage or reading endless news editorials or otherwise paying attention to this anniversary, it was something that happened in a remote location, a far away city, with no personal effect at all, aside from the shock and horror that we all felt. And today, the TV and editorials and whatever are asking us to rekindle that shock and horror and revel in it as if it were yesterday and not ten years ago. I don't think that's useful, helpful or remotely reasonable.

No other successful foreign terrorist attack has happened in the US since 2001. The ones foiled by the FBI turn out to have been half-hearted and poorly planned at best. We don't need to react to this memory with fear. Instead, I think we should stop and ask how it has changed us as a country, as a culture and as a people. Is this who we wanted to become? Is this the country we want to have? Have the changes we've made caused us to be better or worse than before? It's true we can never go back in time, but we're not on a fixed course forever either. We can reassess and change.

The creation of the Department of Homeland Security removed union rights from a large number of government workers. Do we still want it to be like that? The Patriot Act allowed warrantless wiretapping and all kind of domestic spying, temporarily, but it's still ongoing. Do we want to renew that? A lot of people will be talking about the wars we're now waging abroad, the secret prisions, the renditions, the predator drones, and that bears reflection as well. Do we want to do all that to other people? But also, what do we want to do to ourselves? Does a terrorist attack in NYC mean that we need to reconfigure emergency services such that we cannot respond to a hurricane in New Orleans? Does it mean we need to attack unions? Does it mean we need to bleed all spending on social programmes out of our economy so we can afford more bombs?

In the days after 9/11, we talked a lot about reflection and taking stock. Now might be time to do that again. Are we better than we were before, or have we made ourselves worse? What should we do now in the next ten years?

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