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The Crazy Legacy of 9/11

Sean Gonsalves

Tomorrow marks the day that has come to mean many things to many people. And because the plane-bombings of Sept. 11, 2001 had such a far-reaching ripple effect on our society, there is a ring of truth to the notion that 9/11 was, in a nationalistically-narcissistic way, "the day that changed everything."

The nation's soul was stirred. But 9/11 also blew our minds -- the reverberations of which continue to rattle the brain of the body politic to this day. And, I'm convinced, it made is go collectively crazy.

Having just sent my first-born off to a college known for its psychology (and geography) department(s), I'd consider it a good return on investment if my eldest off-spring cane one day answer this question for me: Is it possible for an entire society (or at least a sizeable chunk of it) to go insane?

For example: I don't know what the American Psychological Association thought about it, but the Republican National Convention was nutty, capped off by McCain's insanely-boring speech that, as David Corn of Mother Jones magazine observed, was long on prison cells and short on policy.

By Corn's count, the number of sentences in McCain's acceptance speech about his Vietnam POW experience: 43. The number of sentences about his 25 years in the House and Senate: 8. "The convention ended as it began: a commemoration of McCain's hellish years in a Hanoi prison cell four decades ago," Corn correctly concludes.

I'm no political strategist but is it really a good campaign tactic to repeatedly remind the country that your candidate -- the guy who, if elected, will have his "finger on the button" -- was brutally tortured for years? Does the McCain campaign really want voters wondering about the GOP nominees' PTSD status?

Before McCain took the podium, conventioneers and viewers were treated to a speech by retired Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter denouncing Obama's get-out-of-Iraq campaign promise. To drive the point home, Mutter told the delegates that our "enemies don't talk about timelines for retreat," as if the government we installed in Iraq hasn't officially called for a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops.

The anti-climatic finale came when McCain was greeted on the convention stage with a welcome fit for a warrior-hero, which was followed by one of the most unmemorable speeches in the annals of American oratory. Honestly, other than McCain's POW past and his desire to fight and "drill now!" can you remember anything he said?

Managing not to nod-off several times during the "big" speech, it wasn't hard to see the attempt to re-frame Obama's change message. McCain said he wants to change the way Washington does business, as if he hasn't been an integral part of that business for just about my whole life.

He said he wants to change "almost everything: from the way we protect our security to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we train our workers to the way we educate our children."

Crazily, McCain didn't say a word about how, after a decade of Republican policies, the same old GOP ideas are going to change anything. Then again, none of McCain's change talk made the convention-goers cheer. It was two other things that really triggered the full-throated chants. In response to McCain's call for more oil and gas drilling, the delegates chanted: "Drill, baby, drill!"

The other chant of the night was "U-S-A," which is what they were hootin' and hollerin' when Adam Kokesh brought a dose of reality to the convention floor, holding up a sign that read: "You Can't Win an Occupation." The other side of the sign read: "McCain Votes Against Vets."

You could see the collective disgust oozing from the pores of McCain supporters in the audience, as if to say: who is that anti-American loser peacenik?

Little did convention-goers (and viewers) know, but Kokesh is an Iraq War veteran and board member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

"McCain's rhetoric about winning or losing in Iraq makes no sense -- he's simply failing to admit that it's an occupation," Kokesh said after the convention.

How's that for straight-talk?

"I found it amusing that most of the delegates -- acting like 'dittoheads' -- tried to drown me out with chants of 'U-S-A!' Just two days before, I'd spoken at Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty and had the crowd there chanting 'U-S-A!'...I've found -- after being sent to fight in Fallujah -- that the biggest enemies of the Constitution are right here at home."

Kokesh calls it "amusing." I call it crazy.

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Sean Gonsalves is an assistant news editor and columnist with the Cape Cod Times. He can be reached at

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