On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this country was once again focused 24/7 on a single disaster that tore up one field in Pennsylvania, destroyed part of the Pentagon, and took down three giant buildings in New York City. Almost three thousand people died in the process and the American economy took a temporary hit.
Bells rang, names were solemnly read off, moments of silence were observed, a memorial was opened and consecrated, and casualties of every sort were remembered and honored. For the disasters that have occurred since September 11, 2001, the ones that are so much a part of our post-9/11 world, there will, however, be no bells, no lists of names, no moments of silence, few memories (in our world at least), and no museums or memorials.
That applies to the hundreds of thousands of dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, the millions sent into exile, and the resulting stunted and ravaged lives. It applies no less to those casualties of the Great Meltdown of 2008, which the same administration that drove us into the Afghan and Iraq disasters had such a hand in causing. As I write this, the unemployment rate officially stands at 9.1% (and if you include those too discouraged to look for work and those who are working part-time when they want full-time jobs, heading for 17%.) Last month saw zero job growth and no expert seems to think that there is anything better in store for this country in 2012.
Yet another Labor Day holiday has passed, little noted except for its traffic jams, even though, for growing numbers of Americans, every day is (un)Labor Day and it’s no vacation. Think of this, in fact, as our country’s economic 9/11 -- the people taken down by the crew that hijacked our economy and ran it into the nearest set of buildings. In this case, however, tower after tower has already collapsed, and more are shuddering, while millions of previously employed Americans are now the equivalent of desperate internal exiles in their own country. It’s a slo-mo catastrophe for which, startlingly, the first responders have not yet arrived and show no signs of ever doing so.
As historians Steve Fraser and Josh Freeman point out in “Uncle Sam Does(n’t) Want You,” the most surprising aspect of all of this, given our past history, is how little upset it’s caused.