Young Voices

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Loot thy neighbor: 9/11 disremembered

The Pilot-Tribune offers a student journalist an opportunity to submit a guest opinion for our readers. We kick off the 2004-2005 academic year with this guest editorial by Angela Silvey, a member of the Buena Vista University "Tack" staff.

There's practically no doubt about it; Sept. 11, 2001 forever changed the American social current, along with the entire course of history. On that fateful day, while the iconic cities of New York and Washington, D.C. experienced the worst of times, the best of times - from both ethical and moral standpoints - we were inspired. Truly, the American outpouring of benevolence and support formed the force to be reckoned with.

This past week, as we arrived at the bittersweet third anniversary of the attacks and as "We Remember" flyers dot the campus, I find myself reverting to the annals of past and recent memory. In the end, I cannot help but to pose back to this unresponsive piece of paper, "Well, do we ... REMEMBER?" Because it appears too much that we've settled back into our old, self-interested, opportunistically-minded ways.

Just this past month, this nation saw yet another disaster unfold. Granted, it was no international act of terrorism, but its magnitude was perhaps nearly the same. Another pair of menaces - with the possibility of three - slammed into the U.S. mainland, affecting the southeastern coastline and devastating Florida especially. In fact, CNN reports 47 Florida counties issued evacuation orders, the most massive in Florida's history.

While many Americans lazed in oblivious comfort on Labor Day Monday, 74,000 people had relocated themselves into 295 shelters. The most basic necessities of bread, water and ice were hard to come by - so much so that one man is said to have shot the lock off of a freezer. Food provisions that were available were marked double and triple the normal cost. Four hotels raised their nightly fees from approximately $40 to over $160. And when it was safe for Floridians to return to their hurricane-destroyed communities, many of them found not only a projected $40 billion in combined damages, but looted homes and businesses as well.

Indeed, the profiteering after Hurricanes Charley and Frances has become so bad that Florida has created a special Hurricane Fraud Task Force to deter potential con-artists. The force has been busy chasing after American compatriots pretending to be Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) inspectors, insurance adjusters, roofers, charity organizers and salespersons. All in all, the state's price-gouging hotline has received nearly 3,500 complaints, according to Amy Tardif, reporting for National Public Radio (NPR) News.

That's 3,500 Americans who admit to being doubly-victimized. Compare that to the estimated 3,000 victims of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center bombings. Yes, you may argue that all but 19 Hurricane Charley and Frances victims still possess the most important thing - their lives. However, let me be so bold to say that at least with Al-Qaeda, Americans can rest assured they'll likely only be screwed over once.

So "United We Stand?"

"Stand Still" or "Barely Stand" is actually more like it. Depending, of course, on which region of the country or social bracket you inhabit.

Wait. Before you condemn me, consider this: I'm not the only revisionist of a strategically-used and well-worn phrase. In an on-line "Powers of Persuasion: Poster Art from WWII" display, you will make an interesting discovery - a piece of propaganda made in 1943 by the War Manpower Commission. Depicted are two young soldiers - one black, one white - working together on an aircraft against the backdrop of the American flag. Running across the bottom are the stately and authoritative words "United We Win."

Despite the history the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) relates on its site, true memory of the pre-Civil Rights Movement captures a completely different story. A story of an America that, regardless of appearances, remained terribly disunited. An America which sent young black men to the forefronts under the deception that, in complying, they, once home, also would win.

A hundred years have gone by - the first half of which left the residue of WWI and WWII; the second half of which is clouded by Bush War I and Bush War II. How many wars will it take both our leaders and this good nation to learn the lesson? How long will it take us all to realize that when human misery is increased all-around, there may be victors, but, unless you profit from tragedy and human misery, there is guaranteed to be no "winning?"

To recap the score, some 3,000 innocent Americans perished on Sept. 11, 2001. Add to this number the more than 1,000 American soldiers who have met similar fiery deaths over in Iraq. Then on Sept. 11, 2004 add once again the newest victims of a second U.S.-sponsored desert storm. Total it. Then ask for yourself, "Would those original 3,000 be most impressed by the cumulative way in which we observed their memory?"

Anyway, true to name, the Sunshine State will soon see brighter days in its future, and will forget the aftereffects of Charley, Frances and the imminent Ivan. Floridians must then simply worry about the human-produced winds of Hurricanes George and Kerry.

We can only hope the same is the case for American soldiers and U.S. foreign relations - that soon enough, the reign will quit, the war clouds will dissolve, the flood of insults will cease and a different history lies in wait upon the horizon.

For I honestly don't believe a sense of honor or of peace can be restored by a rainbow Terror Alert chart, much less a rainbow effect swirled in oil.