A couple weeks after 9/11, Ani DiFranco started performing an early version of this poem, which she decided was finished once she’d performed it in New York City the recording of which I posted above (not to be that guy, but I was there). 18-year-old me had a touch of that very typical post-9/11 jingoism, and I remember thinking it was powerful but way over the top. Listening now, it’s still a little rough around the edges, but it’s clear that she had the right perspective. It’s amazing how in hindsight fringe voices can turn out to have been right all along.
This is relevant today as we on the Left in America (myself included) are rallying to reelect Barack Obama. It’s clear after the convention that jingoism is back in fashion now that our guy is the Tough Guy. Sure, the Big Bad Guy is dead now, but everything else that’s going on in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and god knows where else isn’t something any American can be proud of. Still, most of the time when I mention the word “drones,” the responses I get include “picky,” “unrealistic” and “you need to sober up.” But this stuff matters. It’s not hard to imagine a new Osama preying upon men whose sons and daughters were blown to pieces by American machines in the sky.
I post this on 9/12 instead of 9/11, which has become a day of solemn reflection on one’s own mundane experience of the most extraordinary events of our lives thus far, because what happens the day after matters even more. This 9/12 has seen the drums of war beaten by all the usual drummers, and blind hatred of Muslims and Arabs and South Asians of all religions is reaching a fever pitch. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We didn’t have a choice in what happened on 9/11. But we have a choice on 9/12.