On this day 10 years ago, as the anchors said, and still say, "everything changed." And for the families of those that were killed, for the relatives of the grieving thousands, for all those who were somehow closely tied to the horror of that day, everything did change.
But beyond this, how much has really changed? Fear is still ratcheted up; security is still and ever our god, as trust erodes; and violence in all its forms is further entrenched, even as its effectiveness steadily vanishes. Normal has simply gotten worse.
Seems to me that to believe that everything has changed is to ignore the ubiquity of our old disease and its symptoms, there for all to see. To believe that everything has changed, that 9-11 somehow exposed our nationalistic innocence and vulnerability is just another way the age-old lie of sacrificial violence is maintained.
Think back to the ensuing days of 9-11. Were we not all caught up? Suddenly we were all patriots. A phrase that echoed through the western world’s networks was, "We are all Americans now." And suddenly the churches were full—most every church flying an American flag. A spontaneous and unholy impression of unanimity. With our ersatz kinship and goodness suddenly rediscovered, we hastily sought a target for our now justified outrage. No questioning the declaration of vengeance issued by the American president from behind a church pulpit. No reflection beyond retaliation, only a question of how soon.
In this kind of collective unrest blame finds its target; the target’s guilt obvious by virtue of it being targeted, and so excluded; and the death and destruction of distant neighbourhoods or nations, neatly vindicated.
What can descend like dew in this confusion? Can artists, poets, and writers, regardless of faith, put flesh on the bleaching bones of peace and liberation?
This is a time for the dew of beauty to descend. A time like so many other times. And yet, a heightened and urgent time, if only for the stark and burgeoning fact that there are no other solutions than mercy and nonviolence. (A mercy modelled and lived out best, to my mind, by Jesus.)
The way of mercy and nonviolence is all we have left. It was only and always what we had left, but we were taken in by the lie of sacrificial violence, co-opted by a culture based on death. If not growing mercy, and precipitous nonviolence, as remote as this appears, what remains, is apocalyptic violence—the escalation to extreme forms of reciprocal reprisals.
Yet, in the midst of this long shot are outbreaks of truth and compassion, humanizing moments, emerging groups of non-possessed people. So here’s a call to the artists and artisans to become the new anchors of real change.