I woke often in the night to the sound of rain, that steady, straight, persistent rain that delivers the deep drenching that we really need, and my thoughts each time were on my garden, both the nourishment it was getting and the soil that was softening so that I may easily dig more beds.
Don’t plan on lounging about in bed tomorrow morning. Our mayor has ordered all on-duty cops and ambulance drivers to gather at the nearest fire station so they can let the emergency vehicle sirens rip in unison for a full minute at 7 a.m. The island's dogs are gonna love it, because it gives them an excuse to bark and howl, but I’m not quite sure how that constitutes a fitting tribute to the tenth anniversary of the Twin Towers going down.
Notice I didn’t say “Al Qaeda terrorist attacks,” because to tell ya the truth, I’m still not convinced it wasn’t an inside job. Let’s not forget Building 7, and the thousands of SEC files on corporate fraud and God knows what else lost there. Yes, I know anyone who questions the official story is dismissed as a “conspiracy nut,” just as anyone who questioned the subsequent attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq was deemed “unpatriotic.” But if you don’t believe our government would harm its own people for a political/economic agenda, just look at how many Americans have been killed, maimed and jailed for political/economic agendas in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Vietnam, Korea and yes, the good old U.S.A.
But regardless of who pulled off the dirty deed, it certainly has been an effective tool for mind control of the sheeple, and the anniversary gives yet another opportunity to drill the fear message deeper — right down to the latest hype over a commemorative terror threat.
Like the Christmas decorations I saw in Ace Hardware the other day, the build up to the anniversary began well before the big day. “A nation transformed” read the special coverage headline on the Yahoo home page, and though I don’t watch TV, a friend who does tells me the TV networks are filled with similar pronouncements.
Americans are fascinated by that one bad day in our history, and aside from the families of Sept. 11 victims who have traveled to Afghanistan, most appear oblivious to the long string of bad days still being endured by the nations we’ve so wrongly punished for it.
Over the past decade, we’ve waged wars, undermined civil liberties, committed torture and launched Predator attacks, all in a futile attempt to guarantee our populace some mythical, and unattainable, sense of control and security. Billions have been spent, untold tens of thousands killed, and yet we are told we still must stay that course or risk more attacks.
Though I, and other longtime residents of Kauai, can’t claim to know the pain and trauma endured by those who experienced the collapse of the Twin Towers, we do know something of the human response to destruction and loss, of having our world turned upside down on Sept. 11.
That was the unforgettable day in 1992 when the Civil Defense sirens screamed, the sea boiled into a steaming witch’s cauldron, coconut trees flew by like paper airplanes. When the 200-mph winds of Hurricane Iniki departed, we were left with what then-Mayor JoAnn Yukimura termed “complete devastation.”
That was only the beginning. The next day brought the sweeping vistas — and scorching heat — that follows the loss, en masse, of shade-providing leaves from all the trees. With it came the equally stark realization that survival and clean up would dominate our lives for the foreseeable future, eclipsing every other plan, goal, dream.
In the hectic weeks that followed, armed National Guardsmen drove through the streets and the whump-whump-whump of low-flying helicopters was heard constantly overhead. It was not unlike living in a war zone — without, of course, the maiming and death, the opposing sides. We had our fear, though, and it slept lightly in some at-the-ready primal place, re-awakening with each storm warning, each strong gust of wind.
Then came the months of deprivation and disorder, the dreariness of rain-drenched ragged landscapes dotted with sodden debris. I remember most especially the huge mounds of trash — moldy mattresses, corrugated iron roofing twisted into odd shapes, ruined appliances, torn and splintered wood. The cherished “stuff” that comprises the foundation of our materialistic culture was no longer a joy, but a burden.
What became important instead were relationships — friends to help with the heavy work, bring news, share a meal and a laugh. With telephones, cell towers and electric lines down, we had to venture out to engage, come together for entertainment. And people did. We stopped hiding in front of our TVs, sitting on the sidelines, keeping our distance.
Though life eventually returned to “normal,” a powerful lesson from that time — security and control are complete illusions — reshaped my own way of thinking and living. Our lives can be upended at any moment, our world irrevocably altered by outside forces, and in truth, there’s no way to prevent or guard against it.
All we can do is respond, preferably well, in a resourceful, cooperative and yes, even loving manner. We’ve seen many examples of how we already excel at that as individuals, neighborhoods, communities. So why not as a nation? Because that’s where our true safety resides, not in airport scanners, Homeland Security, a nebulous, never-ending “war on terror.”
When we as a citizenry can truly grasp that concept, and demand our elected officials live by it, rather than react with drone attacks, ethnic profiling, wiretaps and waterboarding, then perhaps we can honestly proclaim ourselves “a nation transformed.”
Until then, it's pretty just the same old-same old Testament eye-for-an-eye, defense contractor-friendly business as usual bullshit in America.