So many commentaries today. So many opinions. So many recollections of worldwide sympathy. So much riding on a shared definition of what happened 5 years ago.
Unless you are an artist or a farmer, or, perhaps, a lover of the moon and stars, the changing slant of sunlight is not as meaningful to you as it is to the multitudes of live beings around us and underfoot. The concept of time, measured on a calendar, means only what we assign to it. Maybe a particular day means gifts and flowers to you. Maybe, to another, it means release from imprisonment, or the gift of new and exciting opportunity. If an anniversary means anything, it ought to measure what we have learned, or what progress we have made toward understanding, compassion, and peace.
September 11, 2001 was a horrible day. Nearly 3000 Americans died because a murderous ideologue and his followers executed them by executing a hideously clever and minimalist plan. No WMD, no missiles: just box-cutters and hatred.
We were right to mourn the dead, and to comfort those left behind. We may have been right to take military action against the country that had harbored the killers - although one can make the case, rather easily, that by attacking Afghanistan, which had been hijacked by the Taliban, we turned its citizens into victims once again.
We veered off course when we expanded that war and used our military against Iraq, a country whose leader had not participated in the September 11 attack. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brute. He was not, however, an expansionist brute, or a brute whose arsenal included WMD. Iraq did not threaten us, but we invaded Iraq --because we could, and because we wanted control over Saddam's oil resources.
Ego and oil. Oil and ego. What do you call a leader who invades another country to capture its natural resources and settle a score? I call him a brute. I call George W. Bush a brute.
Five years have passed since September 11, 2001. On this artificial anniversary, this arbitrary date on a paper grid, is the world safer or more democratic? Are we wiser? Is anyone (aside from Halliburton and the rest of the military-industrial complex) in a better place?
For that matter, is anyone healthier? Surely not the First Responders, or the residents around Ground Zero, whose lungs have been ruined because our government lied about air quality. Surely not the thousands of maimed Americans and Iraqis who have been caught in a deadly crossfire between one ideological force and another, between an occupying force and "suiciders" (good job, Georgie) who gushed into Iraq because of us. Because of us.
In those five years since September 11, 2001, we have killed and maimed more Iraqis than Osama bin Laden killed on our soil.
How Osama must laugh to see a once-mighty nation that now believes its safety depends on keeping toothpaste off planes, or that we are safer if the FBI can monitor how many cookbooks your grandmother has checked out of the library.
(Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)
Since September 11, 2001, we could have learned two things: they don't hate our freedom, and we might not love our freedom enough to accept that it comes with some risk. But we didn't learn. And when will we ever learn, if not now?
And now, on September 11, 2006, all I can say is that I am a lover of the moon and the stars. I only hope that our mistakes will not change the slant of our collective light - our democracy - forever.