Saturday, 11 September 2010

On 9/11, remember the dead, but fight for the living

Today, people gathered at Ground Zero in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC to pay tribute to those who died in the atrocities of 9/11. It was a time for mourning and sombre reflection, and one that passed with dignity.

However, for me it was this picture that best summed up the day;

This point was aimed at a variety of factions intent on hijacking the anniversary of 9/11 for their own ends. It is just unfortunate that, as ever, the feelings of those grieving came a pitiful second to their hollow political agendas.

Most obviously, we have Pastor Terry Jones, whose audience went from just 50 to billions in a day when he announced that his tiny church would be hosting "International Burn-A-Koran Day."

The threat never came to pass. He called off the event in dubious circumstances and is currently in New York, supposedly to meet the Imam of the planned New York Mosque. There is little to be added to The Appalling Strangeness's verdict of him as an "antagonist, fundamentalist little twat."

Then we have the "for" and "against" lobbies in the "ground zero mosque" row, which I have covered previously. Both held rallies after the 9/11 memorial service was over to state their cases. Bar some noisy sidewalk arguments, the events passed largely without incident. But still, one can't deny the callousness in simply ignoring the pleas from those remembering loved ones not to have an event at all.

And of course, as much as we'd like to, we can't forget the 9/11 "truth" movement. Screaming from the sidelines to get their idiocy heard, their attitude is summed up by perpetual knobrot Alex Jones's Infowars website: "Don’t want to hear this? Tough. Grow up."

The irony of that statement deserves some kind of award.

The conspiracy theories around 9/11 have been comprehensively debunked, but their advocates simply refuse to fade away or devote their energies to something else. And there are plenty of options.

As Noam Chomsky has observed;
One of the major consequences of the 9/11 movement has been to draw enormous amounts of energy and effort away from activism directed to real and ongoing crimes of state, and their institutional background, crimes that are far more serious than blowing up the WTC would be, if there were any credibility to that thesis. That is, I suspect, why the 9/11 movement is treated far more tolerantly by centers of power than is the norm for serious critical and activist work.
And there is critical activist work that still relates to the tragedy of 9/11.

Although the woman in the first picture was right in the sense that today was not about those trying to hijack the anniversary for their own ends, the actual statement she holds up is wrong. Because 9/11 is not only about those killed nine years ago - it is also about those who survived.

From the AFL-CIO blog;
Nine years ago, Vito Friscia was just one of the thousands of first responders who were honored for rushing to the scene when the Twin Towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. A Brooklyn homicide detective, he was only a block away when the second of the Twin Towers fell. Engulfed in a perilous cloud, he put his life on the line to try to find survivors. Now, Friscia and thousands of other heroes and heroines of that tragic day are facing their own tragedy of serious illness.

More than 13,000 World Trade Center responders are sick and receiving treatment. Nearly 53,000 responders are enrolled in medical monitoring. Some 71,000 are enrolled in the World Trade Center health registry indicating that they were exposed to the toxins.

Friscia was exposed to the dangerous chemicals after he spent about a week at the site and then sifted through the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island. Today, he has a deep cough, chronic sinusitis and shortness of breath.

The 2005 documentary “Vito After,” produced by his sister-in-law Maria Pusateri, gives us an up-close and personal look at what has happened to Friscia. In the film, which makes its international debut in London this weekend, he says he is not a hero, but that he was just doing his job. (See video above.)

But unlike Friscia, Congress is not doing its job. It has failed to provide long-term medical care and monitoring for the tens of thousands of rescue and recovery workers and community members whose health is at serious risk from their exposure to contaminated materials.

Just before the August recess, House Republicans blocked the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act (H.R. 847). The bill did not achieve the two-thirds majority required for passage under “suspension of the rules,” the parliamentary procedure used to bring the bill before a vote.
The World Trade Centre contained 400 tons of asbestos, leaving the rescue workers and New York City residents at risk of some of the most horrible diseases known to man.
But they're not receiving adequate treatment and support. They have been ignored and even actively undermined in their efforts to get help. If you want a real insult to the memory of 9/11, and a real example of state callousness with human lives that relates to that day, then this is it.

Today wasn't about the book-burning fundamentalist lunatic, or the rival protesters. It certainly wasn't about the wingnuts building fantasy around reality.
But, by the same token, it wasn't only about the innocents who died on that fateful day nine years ago. Their suffering is over and, for those who lived through the dust cloud, such a death might seem a relief. It's only right that we remember the dead - as long as we still fight for the living.