Politicizing Tragedy 9/11/19

Opinion by Richard Bleil

Eighteen years ago today on September 11, 2001, terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York, NY on American soil. By any standard, it was a great tragedy, with the loss of almost 3,000 people (2,977 is the “official” count but it does ignore others who passed on from breathing the toxic dust from cancer and other respiratory problems).

I don’t want to sound like I’m insensitive. The loss of life is simply unconscionable, and the bravery of the rescuers who rushed in to help, some of whom lost their lives immediately and others who are still struggling today, is the stuff of legends. These aspects deserve respect, praise and accolades.

Unfortunately, it’s been over politicized.

That there is such an incredible resurgence of emotion this year makes no sense to me. I know that last year it was remembered, but it feels like this year it’s just everywhere. It’s been eighteen years, not twenty, not twenty-five or any of the usual “big” remembrance years in our society, so where is this coming from today? The focus today is reminiscent of the year or two after it happened. Why today? Is it because we are approaching an election year? What’s the impetus for such a resurgence today?

Eighteen years ago, George W. Bush was president, and had been in office for about eight months. Which party was in office is as much a matter of chance as not. The previous president’s administration (Bill Clinton) had written a document to pass along to the incoming administration warning of findings of the weakness of the American air travel system, but unfortunately, the W. administration had decided to ignore the previous administration’s advice and undo as much of the Clinton policies as possible, so W. does get to take some of the blame. But on the other hand, the Clinton administration recognized the problem, and whatever the problem was, they didn’t act either, so there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Whoever was to blame, for months following, you couldn’t turn on the television or radio without somebody giving yet another speech about the 9/11 tragedy. Politicians pointed fingers and maneuvered to make themselves out to be heroes even if they had nothing to do with it. Even the current administration is trying to claim hero status lately although there is no evidence he was anywhere near it.

Tragedies are politicized so frequently these days that we hardly even think twice about it. Although it seems as though people have finally realized how insincere it sounds, every time another politician calls for “thoughts and prayers”, it’s a political maneuver for political gain. It’s an attempt to look sympathetic without really needing to do anything.

Earlier I’ve mentioned that I’m trying to figure out why the insurgence this year, but I’m not seeing any real gain, although there has been political loss. As per usual, the president has been tweeting and posting insensitive photos and comments resulting in loss of political ground. I hope that this resurgence is not part of a political movement by those hoping that he will lose his bid for re-election, but I expect that this is indeed the reason.

Such politicization is so common that many people participate often without even realizing it. Recently the president has suggested that he will be banning the sale of flavored nicotine cartridges for e-cigarettes (although I suspect this will not actually happen, as I think it is more likely just a ploy for him to appear sympathetic to the recent medical problems). Several people have been posting memes on my social media site to the effect of “If they are willing to ban e-cigarettes for three deaths, wait until they hear about how many deaths are caused by the product AR-15.” THIS is politicizing tragedies, both in the e-cigarettes and mass shootings. Although I personally agree with the sentiment, and even thought it is meant to be humorous (although I don’t find humor in it), it is still a form of politicization, an attempt to bring about legislation based on tragedies.

And, yes, I’m guilty of it as well. I hate to admit it, but I am. Recently, in the span of about a week, Texas has undergone two mass shooting tragedies. One was in a Walmart, an enclosed building with many shoppers, and the other was a road rampage with the shooter driving through the streets while shooting over a large open area. I found it interesting that in Texas, the state so well-known for gun rights, open carry and the philosophy of “good guys” taking out the “bad guys”, in both of these incidents, the shooter was stopped by the police. More than once, I’ve thought about writing this on a comment on posts about the second shooting, about how the people living in Texas didn’t stop the shooter in either venue. I’m writing about this irony now, which is another example of politicizing tragedy.

Maybe it’s just the American way.

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