I live in suburban Austin, Texas–a long way from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the days and months after that date, it made me really angry whenever I heard someone state that “Everything is different now” or “Things will never be the same again.” My anger was due to my belief that for pretty much everyone in America–save, perhaps, some in NYC or Washington–things were, in fact, very much the same. We’ll be freaked out for a while, but then life will go on pretty much like it was before. And I felt that life should go on like before, as most Americans’ chances of being directly affected by another possible attack were slim at best.
Fred Clark recently linked to a blog post by Athenae that offers an explanation for these declarations that irritated me so much. Athenae writes:
An awful lot of people, good people, nice people, people living what you’d call normal lives, are just sort of ambling around trying to figure out what the fuck they’re doing here. They have jobs they hate and families that drive them nuts and leisure time that feels more like work than work does, what with travel indignities and the rush and bustle of theme parks. They’re miserable in a low-level kind of way, quiet desperation and all, and church isn’t doing it for them, and drugs are too destructive, and most of them aren’t living the lives they wanted to live. Not at all.
And so, when George W. Bush came along and made a good speech, . . . they jumped on the bandwagon because really, any bandwagon would have done. It had nothing to do with George Bush and nothing really to do with Sept. 11. It had everything to do with a hunger in suburbia for the kind of purpose their parents had as young people in the 1960s, the kind of purpose America had when it was led by real men and not hucksters and thieves. The kind of purpose World War II necessitated . . . and the civil rights movement engendered, back when the people writing editorials today sincerely believed they could change the world.
I’d like to think that I’m just smarter than the masses, but if nothing else, I have a strong aversion to mindlessly pledging allegiance. It angered me that so many were declaring common cause where, to my mind, none existed.