Now it's the tenth anniversary and in the intervening years life in the US has grown grimmer. I recently watched some movies that were made prior to the fall of 2001 and was struck by how curiously innocent they seemed, when dealing with terrorist acts on-screen. Die Hard and its sequels, The Siege and Swordfish stood out in particular as documenting a time that is gone forever. The current reality of a de facto police state, with TSA frisking, soldiers in train stations and airports and the police and FBI no longer needing warrants to track the movements of citizens via GPS, show how much life in America has changed in the past decade, fueled by provisions of the Patriot Act, which ran over the civil liberties of citizens like a tank, all in the name of security.
The terrorists sought to destroy our way of life. They succeeded.
When I traveled in Peru in 1998, I remember being glad that I lived in a country without soldiers posted all over the cities. A dozen years later, there are soldiers on guard in NYC, just as I had seen in Lima. They have been there for years. They will remain there for the foreseeable future.
Now when I watch Swordfish, which was created with characters meant to be villains, covert government agents fighting terrorists, the events of the intervening years since its original theatrical release have flipped the audience reaction on its head, since modern mores would consider those characters to be heroes, protecting and serving the people of the United States. After a decade of state-sanctioned torture, rendition and interrogation of prisoners, the actions of those characters, which would have been considered heinous when the film was first released, now seem almost . . . normal. And that shows how far we have come from the America I grew up in, the one with "liberty and justice for all".
On this day, I mourn.
I mourn not just for those who died that day, but also for the children born since then, who will never know an America that was untarnished by the stain of the torture chamber, one that was a beacon of hope to the world, an American that could chide other countries on their human rights and civil liberties records without the stench of hypocrisy befouling everything. The America that had moral standing in the world is no more.
I'd like to hope that that America can arise once more, some time in the future. I just hope that I am around to see it.