9-11 and the 2000 Election

This post was written on Sunday, September 15th. I used Blogger Pro to change its timestamp to 9-11. I didn't feel the urge to blog on 9-11 itself, and it's taken me a few days to organize my thoughts. Reflecting on 9-11, I came to the conclusion that it's the exact opposite of the 2000 Election. The 2000 Election (11-3?) was about Government, 9-11 was about People.

the 2000 election was a battle between partisans, an excercise in routing your grass roots troops, a game of strategy and PR and above all else, your funding. In these things, the Bush team simply outperformed the Gore team. But the essential lesson was that given a contest for the most powerful position (elected or otherwise) office in the world, the final decision was handled in a court of law. The highest court, but a court nevertheless. There were no tanks in the streets, no calls to violent struggle, none of the baggage associated with anti-American concepts like "coup" and "usurp" (and any Gore partisans who invoke those words need to travel a bit to get a feeling for what those terms really mean. Start in Venezuela.)

In the end, Bush was uniquely positioned to win, and Gore uniquely positioned to concede (in possibility the greatest concession speech in history). I cannot even conceive how they would have acted had the roles been reversed. I imagine Bush would not have been nearly as gracious, and that the Republican grassroots would have erupted in low-intensity PR warfare. It would have been the Clinton era of GOP activism but ten times worse. And I simply don't see Gore as having been able to make the tactical decisions necessary to win (count the overvotes, demand a statewide recount not just in Miami Dade). Gore tried to keep the federal courts out of the fray, at first, and thus lost significant traction to Bush (who brilliantly went straight to the Circuit courts even as GOP PR minions were accusing Gore of trying to make a federal issue out of something clealrly a states-rights issue. Hypocrisy can often be a brilliant tactical weapon).

But again, the essential point was that the system worked. The Constitution held up, there was a clear line to be drawn and the Supreme Court in the end drew that line. You can argue that the SCOTUS was partisan, but the fact remains that it was the SCOTUS that was partisan and not some military tribunal. Scalia is better than Musharraf, and if you disagree, you are hopelessly ignorant of the basis of American freedom.

So, Election 2000 gave me a great rush of pride in the Government - a shining ideal of the Constitution, and our Three Branches as institutions playing a role far greater than the sum of their partisan workings. And yet, that pride was tinged by a feeling of despair about People - the partisan warriors, the influence of money, the rabid bile of the Republican supporters especially whose venom paralyzed those of us in the middle with their sheer volume and ferocity. It was a paradox of sorts - a beacon of Democracy astride a reeking swamp - great Institutions in Check and Balance, looming above teeming and warring masses engaged in trench warfare.

And what was 9-11? The exact opposite. It instilled a great pride in me, for our people - the response in terms of blood, of aid, of time, of sweat. The heroism of the FDNYPD. And of course, the Minutemen of Flight 93. Even the domestic everyman response was a source of comfort and pride - the feeling in the air that this will not stand. The hundreds of flags waving at each and every corner and window and lapel and soul[1] .

Yet, that pride was something apart from a darker current of fear and despair about what has happenned to our Government. The list of rights we have lost is astonishing, and there are real parallels to be drawn with history. If you dismiss the case of Jose Padilla out of hand, then again, you are ignorant of the basis of American freedom.

So, in opposition symmetry to Election 2000, 9-11 was about pride in my People, but Despair about my Government (I am sure that Libertarians will chime in with resounding "duh!" here). I see the sham of Airport security, aimed solely at appeasing fears instead of securing the skies. I see events like the non-Terror alert in Alligator Alley and the case of Samyuktha Verma. I see a Congress bent on giving a secrecy-loving and federal-power-grabbing Bush Administration no significant opposition apart from a few lonely and ignored voices.

9-11 changed America, and not for the better. But it didn't change Americans. Eventually, we the People will take back the givernment, and we can have Pride in both.

[1] I confess I did not fly a flag of any kind. I wanted to, but for two reasons. One to express my ride in my country, but the other out of fear, to avoid the stares I was starting to receive, to appease the demons of my own paranoia, which even now I have no way of knowing was what part justified and what part imaginary. That part of me that wanted to fly a flag to say to the world, "look! I'm not a terrorist! Target your anger elsewhere!" seemed to taint the part of me that said, "look! I'm an American too! Include me in your resolve!". In the end, I chose not to fly one at all, reasoning that the emotion needed to be pure. Hypocrisy in my self is the most hated hypocrisy of all.

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