Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is about love and war, a story condemning the latter’s futility. At the end is this quote: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
I stare at the words. I know their merit intimately. The rupture is a loss that restructures at what feels like the molecular level. Shattered glass held in place by a frame. And, then, some attempt at gratitude for what once was, followed by putting “things” in perspective by moving to fractures affecting more people. Like the breaking that occurred 10 years ago on September 11, a wreckage of broken hearts and dreams. I think of that day’s victims, those who worked in the targeted buildings, the first responders, passengers and crews on planes, the families, many of whom received phone calls, and waited, hoping, the bereft who said, “This can’t be real, this can’t be real, this cannot be real.” And another casualty: truth.
As images were shown over and over, we watched in horror, victims all.
I recall the words of George Bush, challenging loyalties with: “Every nation in every region has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
Patriotic Americans cheered. And cheered some more as our country began its breakage of the Middle East with eye-for-an-eye vengeance that not only continues 10 years later but, also, has expanded under the presidency of Barack Obama.
The war on terror is the war of terror, exploding the lives of men, women, and children whose countries are now toxic wastelands. Exploding the lives of our military families.
Each of us is complicit.
As I write, I know that corporate news anchors are platitude-ing from television sets and radios throughout the country, reinforcing fear and justifying aggression.
Assassinated, Osama bin Laden’s tomb is the sea.
But justice has not been served. The official account of 9/11 isn’t just questionable; the commission itself was a travesty, its members appointed by George W. Bush. Henry Kissinger was tapped to lead but the “Jersey Girls” who scratched and clawed for an investigation, along with other 9/11 families, had researched Kissinger’s ties to the bin Laden family. He stepped down. Another conflict of interest: Philip Zelikow, the 9/11 Commission Executive Director, had co-authored a book with Condoleezza Rice. And, finally, we were told that 3,000 people died in New York City, the Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvania field, and many more were forever changed because of a ………… “failure of imagination.”
One morning this week, I opened my laptop to read that George Bush and Barack Obama will be in New York City to honor those killed in the attack. The ceremony will not be political. No speeches. Short poems or quotes, only. But short poems and quotes are long enough to deliver nationalism and falsehoods.
We have heard them before. So much so that we are choking on an alphabet of lies, letters that spell sacrifice, honor, courage, spreading democracy, freedom, and American exceptionalism.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
Our nation is a multitude of lacerations. Strength has succumbed to fear, consuming like flesh-eating bacteria.
Ten years have passed since that September day when “Never forget” became a mantra implying that the value of an American life is superior to those butchered by US foreign policy.
For this, we should feel immense shame.
Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.