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
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.