Exploitation of 9/11 Was Shameful

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Chicago Sun Times

Exploitation of 9/11 Was Shameful

The remembrance of the World Trade Center last week was an unbearably ugly event, a national disgrace, another blot on the integrity of the country. Under the deft direction of the administration and the supine cooperation of television, it was turned into an event for the Republican congressional campaign, whether the individual candidates wanted such help or not. The imagery was designed to stir up anger and the desire for revenge. What ought to have been a national liturgy of reconciliation and rededication became an exercise in opening old wounds and pouring salt on them. In its wake, those who disagree with President Bush -- even senators of his own party -- become allies of the terrorists.

Do he and his advisers have no shame at all?

Most obnoxious was the exploitation of the grief of the survivors. Anniversaries are always difficult for the bereaved. They should be permitted to suffer in privacy, supported by their faith and their families. Long ago, however, those behind the TV cameras lost all taste and sensibility. Grief, like sex, is no longer a private matter. The pain must be emblazoned across the television screen so a voyeuristic public can revel in it. Have TV journalists no shame at all?

In the wake of the attack, we were told that everything had changed, that America would never be the same again, that the threat of death and destruction would forever hang over us. We must smoke out the terrorists and get rid of them, but they would always be out there waiting for us. We must get even with them but we must always be afraid of them. The response to this doomsday rhetoric was a mixture of sadness, fear and a deep need for revenge. The administration, not able to find Osama bin Laden, now plans to drag some of his henchmen -- tortured and illegally imprisoned -- before kangaroo military courts to prove how tough on terrorists it really is before the election.

Do the marketers of such propaganda have no shame at all?

The memorialization of death and destruction contributes to the ambient self-pity and self-righteousness that often paralyzes the nation. New York, where for a long time there has been a plenitude of both these vices, now has extra reasons to indulge in them. After five years of unseemly squabbling, its citizenry has been unable to agree on a replacement for the World Trade Center. Do the battling partisans of different plans in the Big Apple have no shame at all?

The various experts in Washington tell us that the terrorists will be back. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Vice President Dick Cheney warn us often that they are out there waiting, and we must not let down our guard. They do not explain why not a single person in this country has died because of terrorist action in the last five years. Having it both ways, they claim that their secrecy has prevented more terror and that there still is an overwhelming danger -- hence, we must prevent known terrorist sympathizers from entering the United States and expel those who are already here. When one asks what triumphs we've had so far because of their vigilance, their routine answer is that they can't answer for reasons of national security.

Have Messrs. Cheney and Chertoff and their fellow criers of "wolf" no shame at all?

We have been told often since the attack and we heard it ad nauseam on the anniversary celebration that America will never be the same again. Rarely does anyone examine this sick cliché -- which promotes the self-pity -- to see if it corresponds to reality. However, the Wall Street Journal (in its news section) did re-examine it last week and found that it did not correspond with reality. The American economy has bumbled along and American consumers continue to consume. Only the airline industry suffers, and that in part because of the fiendish harassment of its customers by a government that apparently takes satisfaction in treating every passenger as a potential terrorist. Do the cliché mongers and the passenger harassers have no shame at all?

Andrew Greeley

Andrew W. Greeley is a progressive Catholic priest, sociologist, journalist and popular novelist. He is of Irish decent and resides in Chicago.

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