From the Vault: Some Immediate Reflections on the 9/11/01 Tragedy
Thoughts from a Boston-Area Labor Organizer
Editor's Note: On September 11, 2001, I had just returned from a few days away with my wife. Since we still had a rental car, I had driven her to the doctor's office in Union Square in Somerville where she was working at the time. While in transit, we turned the news on the radio and immediately heard fragmented and frantic dispatches about one of the Twin Towers in New York City being hit by some kind of flying object. If memory serves, the second tower was hit while we were parking outside her workplace. Upon rushing inside, we saw that all eyes were riveted to the TV in the waiting room. And the staff, patients and I watched in mute horror as chaos unfolded on the screen above us and then - not long after - as both towers fell. At that point I rushed home to write the following essay and distribute it to progressive press around the world later that same day. I believe that the piece proved to be fairly prescient and has held up over the years - although I'm quite happy to have been wrong thus far about the possibility of nuclear games being played by any side, and I hope to remain wrong on that last score for the foreseeable future. In any case, read on ...
This is a dark day.
September 11th, 2001 is certainly "a day that will go down in infamy." But it remains to be seen who will ultimately be regarded by the world's peoples as infamous. Attackers unknown? Or the government of the United States of America. And the multinational corporations that drive that government's foreign policy.
The former certainly must be brought to justice for their heinous crimes. But the later two ultimately share the blame for creating a geopolitical situation that could produce people desperate enough to commit such grand acts of violence.
Let me just say from here in Boston that my heart goes out to you all of you in New York City and Washington, DC who are suffering through the aftermath of the destruction by hijacked aircraft of the Twin Towers in NYC and a section of the Pentagon in DC. And let me add that I hope everyone at NYC and DC Indymedia is o.k.
As a labor organizer specializing in helping temp and other contingent workers fight for better pay, benefits and working conditions, I am in shock imagining the fates of all the innocent workers in New York who have been made to pay by some still unmasked entity for the anti-democratic foreign policy of successive U.S. governments and the rapacious business practices of the multi-national corporations.
I am less shocked by the attack on the Pentagon given that it is a military target. But since early reports indicate that the section of the Pentagon that was hit contained mostly shops, civilian employees, tourists and less military personnel than other sections of the building, I am still pretty shocked.
And since 4 planeloads of innocent civilians and airline personnel were sent to their deaths to commit these atrocities, I am disgusted that any organization would use people as living weapons in the service of what is clearly a political act. However justified and necessary that act may appear to be to some.
As a member of Service Employees International Union I have just been informed that our union had many members working in the Twin Towers--many of whom have no doubt now shuffled off this mortal coil--and that information fills me with extra doses of sadness and anger.
As a person who has spent much time in New York City, during a decade long courtship with my now-wife, I am at a loss for words at the disfigurement and destruction visited upon a great city that represents the best and worst of what the U.S. has to offer the world. I cannot imagine looking at the skyline the next time I visit the city and seeing a gaping hole where the Twin Towers once stood. Buildings on whose apex I once stood, over a 100 stories in the air, and looked down upon the misery and majesty of human creation for 100 miles in every direction.
In any case, I just wanted to write a fast essay early on in this crisis to say that the motley crew that is the U.S. Left will be facing a difficult period over the coming days, weeks, and months because of today's tragedy.
Progressives of all stripes--socialists, communists, anarchists, feminists, social democrats, Greens, left populists and even liberal Democrats--must begin serious reflection on today's events with all speed, and quickly resolve plans of action that will prevent the political situation in this country from becoming untenable for all of us.
The various factions of the U.S. right-wing will probably attempt to use the panic generated by the attacks to increase military funding and to curtail some civil liberties.
A war with one or another of the so-called "rogue states" that are unfriendly to U.S. corporate and governmental interests may be in the offing. Racists and nativists of various stripes will probably step up attacks on people of Arab descent in the U.S.--and immigrants to this country in general.
The Israel lobby will try to garner even more U.S. financial and military support for that country's suppression of the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.
Most ominously, there remains a serious danger of one side of another detonating a nuclear device of some sort, or targeting a nuclear plant for destruction--with unimaginable consequences for the planet should such a situation occur.
Because of these and other problems that are likely to arise, I think it is vitally important that all people of good conscience in the U.S. keep our wits about us and work hard to stop these dangerous political possibilities from coming to pass.
We all need to challenge the forces of militarism, racism, nativism wherever we come into contact with them.
We need to call for calm. We need to fight to make sure that the U.S. government does not act blindly and irrationally in its inevitable quest for vengeance.
We certainly need to call for U.S. nuclear forces to stand down from the high state of alert they have remained on for the all of the many years since the end of the Cold War.
We need to fight more than ever for an end to corporate--or to be blunt, capitalist--domination of this country and this planet.
And we need, absolutely, to drive home the point that terrorism against the United States will never end until the United States stops attacking the rest of the world--repeatedly using its military and political might in the service of its corporations' economic interests.
I hope that, together, U.S. progressives can prevent this country from plunging swiftly into some new version of the Cold War--and more to the point--from plunging into a new version of the McCarthy era.
Good luck to us all.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston. On September 11, 2001, he was Associate Director of the Campaign on Contingent Work in Boston's Chinatown.