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A Word on Closure
January 23, 2002
by Richard Prasad

Closure is a psychological term, meaning putting a rather scarring psychological trauma behind us. It's become quite an overused word lately, bordering on pop psychology mumbo jumbo. After the Clinton debacle, we were told we were looking for closure from the whole event. And now once again, after the events of 9/11, we are seeking closure.

Even President Bush joined the closure chorus, just a few weeks after 9/11 urging us to get back to 'normal.' But the question has to be asked, what are we doing to get back to 'normal?' Are we pushing away the memories of 9/11 that brought us closer as human beings, and replacing them with our baser instincts of greed and distinctions by race? Sadly these baser instincts were all too normal before 9/11, and the ideas of greed and racism are slowly creeping back into our lexicon.

In a CBS News poll, conducted on January 8th, 87% of Americans feel either that their daily lives have not changed because of the 9/11 attacks or their lives have gotten back to normal. That is an astounding number, but have we put this tragedy behind us in the right way? The evidence suggests that we are already being divided, the unity we felt after 9/11 a sad mirage.

The primary factor that divides us as human beings is money, either a lack of it or an excess of it. The first signs that money was becoming important to us again was when questions arose as to how the Red Cross was using the money donated to that organization by millions of people after 9/11. The Red Cross was criticized for using money donated for 9/11 victims for other purposes, and not getting the money to the victims family quickly enough.

Conservative FOX No Spinner Bill O' Reilly railed and ranted against the Red Cross for weeks. And he picked a fight with George Clooney in public. For what? For not moving to get to the victims fast enough? Is that really a problem? The United Way and Red Cross would have gotten the money to the victims eventually, but O' Reilly used the impatience of the country as an excuse to act as if he and his show did something. And O'Reilly used the emotions of 'fighting for the victims' to undoubtedly boost his ratings.

The point here is simple. There was no controversy here except one created for television. A few years ago the United Way was caught using donations to buy private planes and live lavish lifestyles. That was a scandal. At worst in this case, the Red Cross used money donated for 9/11 to aid victims of other disasters. Is that so bad? Even O'Reilly said that there was no 'ill intent' in either the Red Cross or United Way organizations, a seeming admission that this was a tempest in a teapot. But once again it showed how easy it is to divide us along monetary lines.

As a corollary to this story, there are reports that other charitable organizations are receiving less money. There are stories that food banks are receiving less food, that children's charities are getting less money. There was a volcano that erupted in Congo recently, at least 45 people are dead. Hundreds are hurt and homeless, do they deserve less compassion and less of our money because we don't know them? I don't think that should be the case, but the events of 9/11 seems to have given us tunnel vision, we are saying only the victims of the WTC disaster matter, and that is not good.

Another example of an argument over money is the Victims Compensation Fund, established by the Federal government. Politicians like New York Governor Pataki, New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Shumer are protesting a proposed regulation that limits how much victims would receive from the Federal government. These victims are already reciving money from the private charitable organizations I mentioned, and now it would seem, and now they want limitless amount of federal money.

The question is why? Many of these victims families will have plenty of money to get them through their lives, between private charities, life insurance policies, and the federal compensation fund. The question then becomes, will any more money bring any of the victims back to their loved ones? The amswer is no. Squabbling over money, and potential lawsuits will only serve to make people more bitter.

There is another example of our country being divided by 9/11, and this one is quite separate and apart from greed over money. This is a story about a statue being proposed for New York City firefighters. The New York City Fire Department proposed that a statue be commissioned showing three firefighters, one black, one white and one Hispanic, raising the American flag, while the World Trade Center lay in ruins, This statue was based on an actual photo, but the firefighters in the photo were all white.

Immediately, conservatives attacked the proposed statue as politically correct, and historically inaccurate. The accusation is that people were willing to rewrite history in order to make people feel better. Ironically, the same conservatives who so bitterly oppose this 'politically correct' statue rewrite history all the time. These 'historically accurate' conservatives oppose the teaching of black studies or Asian studies or any other studies that make the learning of history more inclusive.

For example, if not for black studies, we would have thought that the Civil War was fought only by whites on behalf of blacks for their liberation. This ignores the contributions of black soldiers who fought in regiments for the Union side, as depicted in the Civil War epic Glory. By opposing black studies in college, conservatives seek to rewrite history to their own liking.

The augment over the historical accuracy of the statue ignores the larger point. When people see the statue twenty or thirty years from now, they will not remember the race of the firemen involved in rasing that flag, they will instead remember the bravery of all firemen who gave their lives to save those people in those buildings. People of every race and economic background raced into those buildings to try to save fellow human beings. The victims of terror knew no race when those buildings exploded, they just needed help. The victims did not refuse help from black firemen, they just wanted to live. This was the brotherhood that emerged after 9/11, that brotherhood of humanity bound us together for a time at least.

The person who commissioned the statue originally has recently decided to pull his support for the statue, undoubtedly for the amount of controversy it caused. And so there you have it, life is indeed back to 'normal'. We are fighting over money and race. We have made ground zero a tourist attraction, where people can come and snap photos of the devastation, but in our rush to return to normalcy, we are forgetting the things that make the world trade center and 9/11 important symbols of history.

We forget that for one brief shining moment, we were truly united in the United States of America. United by a common sense of pain and loss, but with every day that passes, that unity fades. This was true unity of the heart and soul, not the flag waving, pin wearing substitute for unity. The fact that our memories are so short is a sad commentary on America.

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