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Chris Hedges
Truthdig / Op-Ed
Published: Sunday 11 September 2011
We were unable to accept the reality of this anonymous slaughter. We were unable because it exposed the awful truth that we live in a morally neutral universe where human life, including our life, can be snuffed out in senseless and random violence.

A Decade After 9/11: We Are What We Loathe

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I arrived in Times Square around 9:30 on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. A large crowd was transfixed by the huge Jumbotron screens. Billows of smoke could be seen on the screens above us, pouring out of the two World Trade towers. Two planes, I was told by people in the crowd, had plowed into the towers. I walked quickly into the New York Times newsroom at 229 W. 43rd St., grabbed a handful of reporter’s notebooks, slipped my NYPD press card, which would let me through police roadblocks, around my neck, and started down the West Side Highway to the World Trade Center. The highway was closed to traffic. I walked through knots of emergency workers, police and firemen. Fire trucks, emergency vehicles, ambulances, police cars and rescue trucks idled on the asphalt.

The south tower went down around 10 a.m. with a guttural roar. Huge rolling gray clouds of noxious smoke, dust, gas, pulverized concrete, gypsum and the grit of human remains enveloped lower Manhattan. The sun was obscured. The north tower collapsed about 30 minutes later. The dust hung like a shroud over Manhattan. 

I headed toward the spot where the towers once stood, passing dazed, ashen and speechless groups of police officers and firefighters. I would pull out a notebook to ask questions and no sounds would come out of their mouths. They forlornly shook their heads and warded me away gently with their hands. By the time I arrived at Ground Zero it was a moonscape; whole floors of the towers had collapsed like an accordion. I pulled out pieces of paper from one floor, and a few feet below were papers from 30 floors away. Small bits of human bodies—a foot in a woman’s shoe, a bit of a leg, part of a torso—lay scattered amid the wreckage. 

Scores of people, perhaps more than 200, pushed through the smoke and heat to jump to their deaths from windows that had broken or they had smashed. Sometimes they did this alone, sometimes in pairs. But it seems they took turns, one body cascading downward followed by another. The last acts of individuality. They fell for about 10 seconds, many flailing or replicating the motion of swimmers, reaching 150 miles an hour. Their clothes and, in a few cases, their improvised parachutes made from drapes or tablecloths shredded. They smashed into the pavement with unnerving, sickening thuds. Thump. Thump. Thump. Those who witnessed it were particularly shaken by the sounds the bodies made on impact. 

The images of the “jumpers” proved too gruesome for the TV networks. Even before the towers collapsed, the falling men and women were censored from live broadcasts. Isolated pictures appeared the next day in papers, including The New York Times, and then were banished. The mass suicide, one of the most pivotal and important elements in the narrative of 9/11, was expunged. It remains expunged from public consciousness.

The “jumpers” did not fit into the myth the nation demanded. The fate of the “jumpers” said something so profound, so disturbing, about our own fate, smallness in the universe and fragility that it had to be banned. The “jumpers” illustrated that there are thresholds of suffering that elicit a willing embrace of death. The “jumpers” reminded us that there will come, to all of us, final moments when the only choice will be, at best, how we will choose to die, not how we are going to live.  And we can die before we physically expire.

The shock of 9/11, however, demanded images and stories of resilience, redemption, heroism, courage, self-sacrifice and generosity, not collective suicide in the face of overwhelming hopelessness and despair. 

Reporters in moments of crisis become clinicians. They collect data, facts, descriptions, basic information, and carry out interviews as swiftly as possible. We make these facts fit into familiar narratives. We do not create facts but we manipulate them. We make facts conform to our perceptions of ourselves as Americans and human beings. We work within the confines of national myth. We make journalism and history a refuge from memory. The pretense that mass murder and suicide can be transformed into a tribute to the victory of the human spirit was the lie we all told to the public that day and have been telling ever since. We make sense of the present only through the lens of the past, as the French philosopher Maurice Halbwachs pointed out, recognizing that “our conceptions of the past are affected by the mental images we employ to solve present problems, so that collective memory is essentially a reconstruction of the past in the light of the present. … Memory needs continuous feeding from collective sources and is sustained by social and moral props.” 

I returned that night to the newsroom hacking from the fumes released by the burning asbestos, jet fuel, lead, mercury, cellulose and construction debris. I sat at my computer, my thin paper mask still hanging from my neck, trying to write and catch my breath. All who had been at the site that day were noticeable in the newsroom because they were struggling for air. Most of us were convulsed by shock and grief. 

There would soon, however, be another reaction. Those of us who were close to the epicenters of the 9/11 attacks would primarily grieve and mourn. Those who had some distance would indulge in the growing nationalist cant and calls for blood that would soon triumph over reason and sanity. Nationalism was a disease I knew intimately as a war correspondent. It is anti-thought. It is primarily about self-exaltation. The flip side of nationalism is always racism, the dehumanization of the enemy and all who appear to question the cause. The plague of nationalism began almost immediately. My son, who was 11, asked me what the difference was between cars flying small American flags and cars flying large American flags.

“The people with the really big flags are the really big assholes,” I told him.

The dead in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania were used to sanctify the state’s lust for war. To question the rush to war became to dishonor our martyrs. Those of us who knew that the attacks were rooted in the long night of humiliation and suffering inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians, the imposition of our military bases in the Middle East and in the brutal Arab dictatorships that we funded and supported became apostates. We became defenders of the indefensible. We were apologists, asChristopher Hitchens shouted at me on a stage in Berkeley, “for suicide bombers.” 

Because few cared to examine our activities in the Muslim world, the attacks became certified as incomprehensible by the state and its lap dogs, the press. Those who carried out the attacks were branded as rising out of a culture and religion that was at best primitive and probably evil. The Quran—although it forbids suicide as well as the murder of women and children—was painted as a manual for fanaticism and terror. The attackers embodied the titanic clash of civilizations, the cosmic battle under way between good and evil, the forces of light and darkness. Images of the planes crashing into the towers and heroic rescuers emerging from the rubble were played and replayed. We were deluged with painful stories of the survivors and victims. The deaths and falling towers became iconographic. The ceremonies of remembrance were skillfully hijacked by the purveyors of war and hatred. They became vehicles to justify doing to others what had been done to us. And as innocents died here, soon other innocents began to die in the Muslim world. A life for a life. Murder for murder. Death for death. Terror for terror.

What was played out in the weeks after the attacks was the old, familiar battle between force and human imagination, between the crude instruments of violence and the capacity for empathy and understanding. Human imagination lost. Coldblooded reason, which does not speak the language of the imagination, won. We began to speak and think in the empty, mindless nationalist clichés about terror that the state handed to us. We became what we abhorred. The deaths were used to justify pre-emptive war, invasion, Shock and Awe, prolonged occupation, targeted assassinations, torture, offshore penal colonies, gunning down families at checkpoints, massive aerial bombardments, drone attacks, missile strikes and the killing of dozens and soon hundreds and then thousands and later tens of thousands and finally hundreds of thousands of innocent people. We produced piles of corpses in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and extended the reach of our killing machine to Yemen and Somalia. And by beatifying our dead, by cementing into the national psyche fear and the imperative of permanent war, and by stoking our collective humiliation, the state carried out crimes, atrocities and killings that dwarfed anything carried out against us on 9/11. The best that force can do is impose order. It can never elicit harmony. And force was justified, and is still justified, by the first dead. Ten years later these dead haunt us like Banquo’s ghost. 

“It is the first death which infects everyone with the feelings of being threatened,” wrote Elias Canetti. “It is impossible to overrate the part played by the first dead man in the kindling of wars. Rulers who want to unleash war know very well that they must procure or invent a first victim. It needs not be anyone of particular importance, and can even be someone quite unknown. Nothing matters except his death; and it must be believed that the enemy is responsible for this. Every possible cause of his death is suppressed except one: his membership of the group to which one belongs oneself.”

We were unable to accept the reality of this anonymous slaughter. We were unable because it exposed the awful truth that we live in a morally neutral universe where human life, including our life, can be snuffed out in senseless and random violence. It showed us that there is no protection, not from God, fate, luck, omens or the state.

We have still not woken up to whom we have become, to the fatal erosion of domestic and international law and the senseless waste of lives, resources and trillions of dollars to wage wars that ultimately we can never win. We do not see that our own faces have become as contorted as the faces of the demented hijackers who seized the three commercial jetliners a decade ago. We do not grasp that Osama bin Laden’s twisted vision of a world of indiscriminate violence and terror has triumphed. The attacks turned us into monsters, grotesque ghouls, sadists and killers who drop bombs on village children and waterboard those we kidnap, strip of their rights and hold for years without due process. We acted before we were able to think. And it is the satanic lust of violence that has us locked in its grip. 

As Wordsworth wrote:

Action is transitory—a step, a blow,The motion of a muscle—this way or that—’Tis done; and in the after-vacancyWe wonder at ourselves like men betrayed:Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark,And has the nature of infinity.

  We could have gone another route. We could have built on the profound sympathy and empathy that swept through the world following the attacks. The revulsion over the crimes that took place 10 years ago, including in the Muslim world, where I was working in the weeks and months after 9/11, was nearly universal. The attacks, if we had turned them over to intelligence agencies and diplomats, might have opened possibilities not of war and death but ultimately reconciliation and communication, of redressing the wrongs that we commit in the Middle East and that are committed by Israel with our blessing. It was a moment we squandered. Our brutality and triumphalism, the byproducts of nationalism and our infantile pride, revived the jihadist movement. We became the radical Islamist movement’s most effective recruiting tool. We descended to its barbarity. We became terrorists too. The sad legacy of 9/11 is that the assholes, on each side, won.

This article was originally posted on Truthdig.

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ABOUT Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

a different but excellent

a different but excellent view which problematizes the whole 'myth' about 9/11/....

a different but excellent

a different but excellent view which problematizes the whole 'myth' about 9/11/....

a different but excellent

a different but excellent view which problematizes the whole 'myth' about 9/11/....

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A minute saved is a minute

A minute saved is a minute eraend, and this saved hours!

Mark Elkins, if my house were

Mark Elkins, if my house were broken into again, I'd be pretty sure it was one of the families in the neighborhood having kids turn 14-16 again, and hanging around with the wrong friends. Happens every so often. Chris or I would probably make a police report and buff up our home security. Not search out every teenage boy's home in the neighborhood and firebomb it. That's what he said in the article.

American Woman: if you think that criticizing anything about America makes you unpatriotic, and means you should leave for China, or anywhere else; just think of all the work that could be saved the House of Representatives and the Senate if they took that tack! No changes or improvements (or negatives) to the country's ways!

Blind loyalists are,

Blind loyalists are, unfortunately, not deterred by facts and the neo-cons were well aware that their propagandizing and manipulating of public opinion would allow them to “make their own reality”. To this day, there has never been a public reckoning of the large role the propagandists played who went to work supporting George Bush’s new “crusade” for Empire.

In his Huffpost “What 9-11 Makes Us Forget”, David Bromwich sheds light on one particularly cruel but effective neo-con propagandist who never needed (and to this day doesn’t need) to muster any facts whatsoever, to be seen as a Mid-east expert: “In brutality of sentiment, no neoconservative ever topped the explanation Thomas Friedman gave to Charlie Rose of why the U.S. had to smash the electrical grid, strangulate the water supply, demolish the major administrative centers of Baghdad and much of the rest of Iraq and kill tens of thousands of civilians. The details and justification hardly mattered, said Friedman. “What we had to do was go over to that part of the world… and take out a very big stick… [and say]: Suck. On. This.”

Fast forwarding a decade, the neo-con plan supported by propagandists like Friedman is still working. For instance George Bush is coming to the Twin Cities, Minnesota on Sept 21 to be feted by the Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, the same synagogue that hosted Condi Rice a couple years ago, and before that, Ari Fleischer and a whole host of other pro-Israel neo-conservatives. The “platinum level ticket” at $3600 being sold by the Synagogue buys hors-d’oeuvres and a photo for a big money booster with George W. The Synagogue expects tickets for the chance to stand next to Bush will go fast.

Unfortunately the U.S. public is still being manipulated by powerful media and politicians who simply push people’s emotional buttons of fear, hate, greed, false pride and blind loyalty (approximately in that order) 24-7 in order to maintain public momentum for the wars of Empire. War presidents have changed but the quest for empire continues.

Incidentally, Thomas Friedman hails from St. Louis Park and has never admitted he was wrong about anything. He’s not only devoid of “civic conscience” (per Bromwich) but obviously devoid of any human conscience which, in my book, makes for a psychopathic mentality that is hell-bent on continuing the murder and mayhem. Ironically the Synagogue’s big money boosters and Friedman followers do not remember the Nuremberg Principles prohibiting wars of aggression and torture that came out of WW II atrocities. They ignore World War II's sad lessons as if, in fact, they can "make their own reality".

However, some of us with consciences and who do believe in reality are planning to hold an anti-torture candlelight vigil outside the Bush event at Beth El on September 21. Come join us on the sidewalk (4 to 7 pm) on Sept. 21 which incidentally is designated by the UN as "International Peace Day".

In the first few days after

In the first few days after the second 9/11 I thought that Bush was going to out do his father, that he was going to respond positively to the world wide Muslim support and outrage at the horrendous act and get the terrorists emarginated in their own countries and by their own people.............BUT he followed the orders of the leaders of America, the right wing corporate masters of our future. I was simple minded for a couple of days and was ready to think that George W. would realize that he could have made himself one of the greatest leaders we ever had!

Wonderful write, Mr. Hedges.

Wonderful write, Mr. Hedges. I, as Antonietta above me, posted the same on my FB page .. what about all the lives that were lost of innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan .. I posted that link as well. I didn't watch the remembrance yesterday .. I couldn't. I had people on my FB feed that had personal losses, family that perished in the tragedy, and they said they were tired of this being a major event every year. It only hurts them more and they're tired of it. We didn't learn our lesson from it either .. whether any of the conspiracy theories stand up as true or not .. this world is well to populated for us (as a country) to continue thumping our chests and saying we're #1. I'm grateful we have a President now who doesn't do that .. however, we're in that quagmire that had been predicted so many years ago. There are many of us out here who have been called unpatriotic for our views on how we behave in this world. Patriotic to me is loving my country of origin enough to be able to want what's best for it .. not to be shamed by our murderous ways. Peace ... ♥

Thank you, Chris. I hope that

Thank you, Chris. I hope that sometimes the literary equivalent of shaking 'em by the collar will have the desired effect. Please know you speak for many, many Americans, even those who were lucky enough to be far away from NYC on that day.

Chris, you make your point

Chris, you make your point eloquently, and I agree with all you said. Some people may find it difficult to accept what you have said. All Americans should read your article and honestly reflect.
For the "what-would-Jesus-do" group, do you really believe that Jesus would approve of many of the actions taken by our country in response to 9-11, or would he lean more toward reconciliation, understanding? "Blessed are the peacemakers......... ."

On the morning of 9/11/2001 I

On the morning of 9/11/2001 I was thinking of 9/11/1973 when US imperialism along with local military lackies destroyed Chilean democracy killing well over 3000 Chilean citizens. This Nixon-Kissinger-led aggression/terrorism/atrocity, which involved the death of Chile's President, Dr. Salvador Allende, has never been forgotten by the people of the world, in particular by Latin Americans. I was planning to talk to my students about Chile's 9/11, when we noticed from our third floor classroom window at John Jay High School in Brooklyn that the World Trade Center was on fire. What happened afterwards and throughout the rest of the day was truly terrifying, although I must say that my students, almost entirely inner-city black and latino teenagers, instinctively knew that, in their words, "the chickens had come home to roost". In the days that followed, most New Yorkers felt immense grief and pain, while it seems that the rest of the country felt mostly rage and a desire for revenge, feelings which I think most people in NYC did not share. In any case, on 9/11/1973, Chile was the victim of US imperialism; on 9/11/2001, US imperialism (the WTC and the Pentagon) was the victim, mainly of people they themselves had trained to do the US empire's dirty work. In both cases thousands of innocents were horribly killed: the Chilean dead are considered collateral damage, the US dead are heroes, martyrs, faces with first and last names. Today, the front pages of the world's corporate media remember "9/11". Only one 9/11.

hi chris...i actually saw

hi chris...i actually saw this on fb and misunderstood the poster's comment until i realized he was directly quoting you. so much of what you said is incredibly thought well as horrifying and real. i realize that so many people like yourself that were actually there will be traumatized for life...and still after ten years trying to heal unspeakable pain. i do feel that the graphic detail about folks leaping to their death was too much for me especially after seeing the images over and over and over many times that they will be forever imprinted in mine and millions of memories. in some ways perhaps the media protected us from the horror so we would not follow suit...yet truth in media and government has become so twisted beyond recognition even to this day. i commend you for reporting the truth as you see it, but i don't believe the self-sacrifice, heroism, and resilience is only a myth as evidenced by countless stories of people that went in to save others. i agree with what you said about the nationalistic response though and i cringe every single time i see hate manifest itself in yet another form...i caution you against the slippery slope of generalizing too much though that we all have joined in on the war mongering. near the end of your article, i hear dr. king's voice ringing loud and clear against retaliation...and understand the point you are trying to make...I pray that there will truly be peace on earth one me polyanna, i don't care. i'm so sorry for what you had to go through. God speed.

I had my first real

I had my first real discussion with my son about 9/11 today. He is 13. I told him he needed to get all the facts and weigh all of the opinions about 9/11 himself over time.

He didn't understand why people hated Americans. Then I told him about what I know of history of war in the middle east, the first gulf war, etc.

Then I gave him this analogy. Imagine if the US Federal government allowed China to park their armies in America's church parking lots in order to keep an eye on Canada . What if the US government said there was nothing the churches could do about it and the athiest Chinese army can occupy the land? Imagine if, in response, some independent self ascribed patriotic Christian Americans traveled to China and detonated truck bombs in front of their commerce and government buildings killing thousands of civilians. I'd say those Americans are wrong in their deed but understand how they could be motivated.

Imagine then China declaring war on Christian terrorism around the world-maintaining a suspicion of all Christians everywhere.

I told him the analogy is not a likely scenario, and somewhat in-congruent but we should try to understand how isolated injustices compounded over time can lead to unjustified acts that propel nations and religions into war.

Hopeful my son will find out more from others and find truth for himself while imagining the point of view of others.

Chris Hedges is not attacking

Chris Hedges is not attacking Americans. Get clear on that. He is doing something that is very hard for many to accept. He is holding up a mirror. What does each one of us see? Are we horrified? Offended?

American Woman, you are sadly

American Woman, you are sadly lacking in knowledge of the circumstances . . . shamefully naive. None of this will make sense to you until you improve your knowledge. You are probably among the many who have erected a distortion mechanism inside your mind. This would have to be dismantled first. Good luck.

Chris, you are so right when

Chris, you are so right when you say: "We can die before we expire." Just as Thoreau said: "I went into the woods to (con)front nature, to learn all that nature had to teach, not to find out, when it came time to die, that I had never lived." Perhaps we will soon be unable to even say these words or have them appear in print! We are (almost) all ADDICTED to the PORNGRAPHIC FORCE of symbolic violence, (demonization of self/other", especially the demonization of the emotional vulnerability of self/other). And, perhaps, we are all addicted to vicarious and virtual, if not actual, physical violence, (on/with, self/other, especially torture, war, etc.)
One non-violent way to counter addiction to pornographic FORCE is to become FREE, by finding, or re-discovering, etc., our sense of proportion, namely seeing QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES for what they are, (relative illusions) instead of mistaking these quality of life issues for ABSOLUTE LIFE AND DEATH ISSUES!
We need to be willing to see the RELATIVE AMBIGUITY of LIFE and the ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY OF DEATH! lol Perhaps we all need to have better "common sense" and a better sense of proportion, (knowing when to take things seriously, vs when to take things "lightly", i.e., when "issues" are mainly drama and ego). Common sense, along with a sense of humor is worth more than money, fame and/or power, combined! What do you think, Chris?

"The attacks turned us into

"The attacks turned us into monsters...killers who drop bombs on village children and waterboard those we kidnap... We became terrorists too." Has Mr. Hedges (one of my favorite journalists) forgotten what the US did in Viet Nam 40 years before 9/11? Has he forgotten what we did in the Philippines over a hundred years before 9/11? Not to mention the well-known and -documented history of US criminal and terrorist activity throughtout the world over the last hundred-odd years. Does Mr. Hedges want us to believe that the attacks turned us, the United States, into something that we had not been before that fateful September morning. I think he knows better than that, don't you?

I am indignant that we are

I am indignant that we are still indulging in Jingoism and self righteous propaganda designed to justify the War Machine that is our major cultural achievement. I would hope that people would understand the poison that they are being fed continually through our news media. I hope that they are ready to live with the results of our military's continued violence.

The US did not become

The US did not become terrorist after 91101; the US was already a purveyor of terrorism long before that date and it is the main reason the attack occurred. Let us not forget another 911: September 11, 1973 when democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende was overthrown by forces of the brutal fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet with the help of the Nixon administration, Henry Kissinger and the US intelligence community. Afterwards, terror reigned in Chile for over 20 yrs. thanks to Uncle Sam.

This article is absolutely

This article is absolutely fantastic. I so appreciate reading something so raw and truthful.

Whether you believe we have

Whether you believe we have become terrorists or not is a matter of semantics. What really matters is what effect our reactions to the tragady have had. Conducting 2 long wars killing hundreds of thousands of people is hardly a good way to make friends. We have taken the choices which bin Laden wanted us to take and the number of people wanting revenge on America is higher than ever.

Mankind needs to advance beyond tribalism. Our future is either peace and prosperity or extinction.

Sadly, Mr. Hedges, we have

Sadly, Mr. Hedges, we have not woken up to what we've become because there are many, both in government and the media, who want to make sure that we never break free from the 'virtuous victim' mind-set which allowed us to indulge in our national addictions to brutality, triumphalism, nationalism and our infantile pride, and who continually cheer on the monsters, grotesque ghouls, sadists and killers within us who had been locked away in the deepest recesses of our national consciousness for decades, and were finally unleashed when the Twin Towers fell, a hole was blown out of the Pentagon and a farmer's field in Pennsylvania became a mass burial ground.

mark, you are about as naive

mark, you are about as naive as the sky is blue. keep waving that flag.

I am naive Bill. I wave the

I am naive Bill. I wave the Constitution and the government is obligated by it to protect our country. The sky is not 'blue', but clear, unless you count the smoke billowing from the Twin Towers. Any politician can take advantage and any industry can capitalize on events. My response to Mr. Hedges emphasized more his literary devices and his parental slip-ups, not that I am any perfect parent or have perfect grammatical skills.

Wow, you are full of yourself

Wow, you are full of yourself aren't you? The wrongs we commit in the Middle East and supporting Isreal rankle you? America was attacked and we responded, I believe that when Bin Laden was killed we should have been done. Unfortunatly they still want to clear us and Isreal from the face of the earth. What were we doing to them when they flew the planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, Flight 93. What did those people who died because of the hatred that those men had for America do to them personally? Nothing, they were unstable, twisted people with an agenda against America. I am tired of people bashing America, if you don't like it here, leave. Go live in the Middle East, leave us alone. There have been enough lives lost and money spent on this war, we need to bring the troops home so that their "boots on the ground" are here.

American woman; I can hardly

American woman;

I can hardly remember reading a more ill informed and poorly conceived response than this. I seriously doubt you are the person that can shed anything like insight in what "they" think or desire for the world. I cannot be sure, but I seriously think that you are not a qualified psychologist or anthropologist and thus are simply not qualified to speak about or discourse on the motivations of people living in another culture and living by a credo that is clearly alien to you.

So you're tired of people "bashing America"? Presumably then if one chooses to continue living in this nation they must first prove that they comport with your constrained view of patriotism? Such a suggestion I dare say, is fundamentally UN-American.

And whether or not you approve, I was born in this nation. This is my country every bit as much as it is yours. And by virtue of the First Amendment to the Constitution, it is not only my right, but my duty to call out that which I find an insult to the my nation. It is not now, nor will it ever be your right to decide who should be permitted to live here or to castigate those whose opinions you find disagreeable. If anyone is guilty of "bashing" America, it is you and those like you who believe abject subjugation to somebodies contrived view of propriety is a insult that requires deportation. As bin Laden himself recognized, he could not bring this nation down. It would have to be done by Americans themselves, and myopic views like yours are just the ticket. And if your are truly offended by people speaking truths that you find offensive, there are several countries, not ironically, in the middle east where throttling criticism of the nation is standard operating procedure and it would perhaps be easier for you to move there than for progressives in this nation to all vacate based on your need to live in a world that doesn't challenge your precious sensibilities.

@american woman

@american woman HAHA....actually smart people like chris hedges and myself HAVE already left america because it is almost unbearable to live in now with all the stupidity and brainwashing that has taken place. your opinions 'american woman' are so primitive, tribal, and without knowledge, however you probably feel at home in america with the victim consciousness there at full swing. if you looked into things or had some sense you would find that elements in both Israel and America create and foster our enemies so that they can continue their power and militarism, 9/11 was a big demonstration of that. you've got the wrong heroes, and the wrong enemies, because you are blind to what is really going on. you are not safer because we invaded iraq or libya where we supported al-qaeda and now they have manpad rockets etc etc....but you just want to exist in your little tribal world of, "we were attacked'. yes you were! but from who...look into it.

gee, that was slightly more

gee, that was slightly more articulate than, "America, love it or leave it", just more words and sylables...keep watchin' that fox news (?) and wavin' that flag, 'cause we all know that 'we' can't possibly be wrong about anything, cuz we're never wrong about anything...for cryin' out loud, is it so wrong to expect our country to live up to its own ideals ?

@Mark Elkins: You weren't

@Mark Elkins: You weren't there during the horror of 9/11. Chris Hedges was. He saw the body parts, breathed their ashes. They became more than a symbol to him, but part of his body, in a sense. He saw the people jumping from the buildings, but you didn't because the government (through the media) blocked that image from you. Then he went to the Middle East. He was there. You weren't. He saw the possibilities to redress our suffering and theirs. You didn't. Chris witnessed, as a journalist, the manipulation by the government at both ends. You bought into it. If Chris felt it necessary to tell his son about those bigger assholes, he especially had the right to do it because he was there and he knew more of the background and the story than you did. And, since you weren't there and didn't know the whole truth - clearly still don't, in fact - you bought into the bullshit, and are still buying into it 10 years later. I feel pity for you.

I don't discount Mr. Hedges

I don't discount Mr. Hedges being there and I had no problem with that section of his article, although you don't really exactly know where I was that day, do you? Does one have to be there to experience or feel the exact same horror? How close does one have to be to have their feelings validated? Is it our geographical location that makes what we say carry weight? Do only journalists understand government manipulations? I said Chris had the right to tell his son, I just didn't agree with his educational prowess at that moment, as I am sure he is probably an excellent parent. We all buy some type of bullshit and I just wanted to make sure that certain writers supposed 'objectivity' (as everyone is subjective to some degree) wasn't 'his version of bullshit' as high sounding as it may have appeared. You may consider that 'pitying me' is buying into the 'bullshit' that many of your position do as you may consider us 'naive'.

Well, Mr. Elkins, I just

Well, Mr. Elkins, I just figure that it would be too coincidental for you to have been in New York on 9/11...AND be in the Middle East afterward. If you had, you would have predictably said so. As to objectivity, I'm glad some writers are now questioning the mindset that came about after 9/11, as well as calling for the truth about what happened that fateful day, instead of running around like assholes waving a piece of cloth in the air gleefully shouting "mine is bigger than yours."

Thank you. I wanted to write

Thank you. I wanted to write something, but I think you have eloquently expressed my same thoughts, Mark. It is a sad world we live in, and if Mark would prefer not to support his country, then I am sure he is FREE to leave. Many people have died for him to have that right, and they were buried with a HUGE American flag.

I understand ever recruit

I understand ever recruit does so for their country, regardless of what other (education, travel) reasons people have joined militaries. Our love for those kids who make up our Armed forces must not be confused with not allowing analysis of the political reasons leader put these youth in harms way. I'm not so sure the actions these men and women were ordered to do are really "for" our country. I commend and hold blameless those who carried out the orders, for country and each other.

You are a Texas Peach!

You are a Texas Peach!

Best article I have read to

Best article I have read to date about post 9/11 Thank you Chris Hedges...that God we still have a few people brave enough and smart enough to see and tell the truth!

Chris obviously lives in a

Chris obviously lives in a universe of his own choosing. His article in total is a cliche,poster boy-worthy epithet to communism 'why can't we all just get along'. When his house gets broken into, I am sure he will just take it and not press charges. 'We begin to think in empty, mindless national cliches about terror that a state handed to us. We became what we abhored'...So, wrong, Chris, we continue to abhor terror. How do you think any cliche becomes manifested in the first place-by being untrue? 'We'-who is the 'we'? The farmers? The housewives? The blue-collar workers? Cliches are not 'mindless'-they simply need clarification and expounding at times. They can summarize or inspire a conversation and can be broadly applied to many real-life situations, from which they sprang. They don't say everything, but they do say something, but like any thing else, it depends on the user. Cliches don't drive the situation. Granted, politicians can fuel the fire with them, playing upon people's open wounds, however, cliches are the result of the situation, not the root cause. We, unlike the real terrorists, do not brainwash our children to hate 'the infidels', but inform them (hopefully) to make choices, but to make informed ones. You did your son a great disservice by calling a group of people that had 'bigger flags', 'bigger assholes', instead being a good teacher to him and asking him, 'Why don't you read all about it and tell me what you think'. You influenced him (your right as his dad) out of your relative perspective, instead of letting him develop his own thinking. Let him decide for himself whether or not people who live in this country have a Constitutional right to display their country's flag as they choose, not as you would choose for them.Thanks and stay healthy,Mark

Markie, Markie, can't believe

Markie, Markie, can't believe you threw communism in. And if anyone is a cliche, it seems to be you. "We" don't brainwash our children to hate? Have you talked to fundamentalist Xtians since 9/11 perchance? Have you been in even public schools where this can and does happen?
And who really are the "real terrorists"?

I have regretted saying angry, abrupt things to my grandkids, much as Chris did about the flags to his son. Kids don't have a context to compute such abrupt/disgusted/dismayed retorts that often stem from our profound sorrow. I feel I know Chris Hedges, at least a little, and I would wager that he eventually found the time and the heart to explain his flags remark to his child.
All good thoughts and wishes to Chris Hedges, a wise man who in his life's work has seen more tribulation than the huge majority of us will ever see.
Mark, good thoughts to you too, and may you continue your learning curve.

I tried to teach my kid the

I tried to teach my kid the truth. People who had bigger flags generally were assholes. Yes, people in my world often do deal with break in themselves, finding who did it and getting it back or writing it off or catching someone and beating them. We would never call police on a B and E. We do laugh it off sometimes.

Mark - I would like to

Mark - I would like to critique your response from the bottom up, as it were, since you end much more reasonably than you start. Whether you were wishing Mr Hedges or Nation of Change moderators or the readers generally that we stay healthy and offering thanks, it was a good gesture, and not unnoticed. I personally would interpolate between your (ironically) "why can't we all just get along" response to the 11 year old and Chris' use of the word "asshole". It's important, I agree, to let the kid develop his own critical thinking, but it is impossible and not even desirable to allow critical thinking - especially at that age - develop without some kind of basic understanding which at worst would form a foil. Consider, for example, how many children develop their own spiritual sense - or lack thereof - from the basis of whatever organized religion they were raised in. But just as people who live in this country have the Constitutional right to display their country's flag in a large, triumphal way, they have a right to display it in more modest ways, or upside down, or in flames, or not at all. "My country, right or wrong" is an opinion, not a qualification for patriotism. For over 40 years, I have been asking "big flaggers" - Would you continue to honor the flag in that way were there a communist takeover of the country? Would you consider not displaying it? Burning it? No, what makes us Americans, true patriots, is a commitment to larger principles - such as the right to opinions that dissent from majority opinions, no matter how engineered. If we continue to abhor terror, as you suggest, then why would one not empathize with the recipients of American terror? Or is it simply "It is right because we as Americans are always right - by Divine Right?" That is not true patriotism but tribalism. Finally, talk about living in a universe of one's own choosing! You have absolutely no clue what communism is! "Why can't we all just get along" is HARDLY communist, but the aspirational goal of any multiethnic, multiopinioned, multicultural nation on earth - unless you'd prefer ethnic purity, not unlike the hardly communist Third Reich. Had you begun your response with "Cliches are not 'mindless' -", a quite reasonable point, your comment would have been worthy of unalloyed respect. What precedes it reveals you to be the unthinking, unreasonable mouthpiece of an agenda whose object you either don't understand or don't want to publicly admit. It reminds me of Soviet Communism, in fact.

"His article in total is a

"His article in total is a cliche,poster boy-worthy epithet to communism 'why can't we all just get along'. "

And your response makes you a poster-boy for digitalotoitius...usually caused by fingers culturally crazy-glued into the ears.
..."epithet to communism"...are you serious?

I don't know if it would even be humanly possible to misconstrue what Hedges just offered to a greater degree than your response just did.

One last thing: It is never a dis-service to tell your son, or anyone else for that matter, the truth.

As an American I am completely cognizant that America is a hotbed of assholes of all sizes and that size and number of flags displayed by each is a good and practical way to note the size of the asshole one is dealing with.

How many flags I wonder do you own, sir?

vashondogboy's picture

I realize that many will

I realize that many will criticize this article as generally anti-American or worse. It seems a majority of disengaged Americans have been manipulated into believing the all-American self righteous jingoistic narrative and lies about 9/11 that have been relentlessly pounded into their heads by our co-opted and incompetent leaders and the lazy, corporate controlled lap dog main stream media. I find Mr. Hedges point of view renewing and factual and something that needs to be promulgated .


Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq "1,455,590"
Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In U.S. War And Occupation Of Iraq
Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 2,710
Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan
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