A strange anniversary today. Sad, as always, but very, very different this time around. Perhaps it was time.
Nineteen years have passed and I do not perceive that we have ever reflected as a People on why that terrible day occurred or how it would affect or has affected our collective psyche There are plenty of conspiracy theories and at least one of them is valid, perhaps several. It shaped who we became, at least for a while, and millions have been displaced and died worldwide as a result. But our cycle of despair and mourning and furious overreaction with patriotism become jingoistic seems to have run its course and a contrary dystopian overreaction has set in, violence having subsumed reasonable and necessary protest. Self-loathing replaced American exceptionalism although the balance is somewhere in between. Perhaps karma has caught up with us at last.
It is said that those who live by the sword die by the sword and we as a People have lived by the sword for way too long. Apparently, we have now become fratricidal and suicidal as a society as well. It ought to have been expected. Indeed, the “Sleeping Prophet” predicted it a century ago.
The past three and a half years have been terrible as well and perhaps in the long term more destructive than that day in September almost two decades ago, at least to us. The rest of the world may see things differently. Perhaps dreaming that its long nightmare may soon come to an end.
The foundation of a functioning democracy: that the winners govern, that the defeated accept their defeat at least during the next cycle, and that the government stays neutral during the election, have been shattered in the United States, less “united” than at any time since our first “Civil” War. As in the case of Pandora’s Box, I doubt that the harm and disruption occasioned since that fateful day in November of 2016 will ever be repaired or that future elections, regardless of the winner, at least for the foreseeable future, will ever be accepted as legitimate by large segments of the population. I doubt that the reaction to such delegitimization will, in the future, be as patient as that shown by the current president. “Dictatorship”, from the Democrats or from the GOP is in the air, and it will, as was the case in the Roman Republic, as has occurred three times in the United States already (Lincoln, Wilson and FDR during war), be found acceptable by many members of a weary People. We will have become enured to “lesser evil”.
For good or most probably, as seen from where we sit today, for ill, we the People are deeply enmeshed in a fundamental transition, pulled hither and yon by selfishly chaotic forces that care little for our welfare, only for their own. For power and wealth perpetuated on the one hand and for instant gratification on the other, instant gratification sometimes bred of despair but too often just out of selfish, childish boredom: on the one hand an urge to accumulate and on the other an urge to destroy. We are firmly focused on the instant blithely ignoring the future, consequences be damned. But we have been bred that way for almost two centuries, it is who we have become, and the chickens have come home to roost.
I wonder what the next nine-eleven will be like.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.