What’s significant about nine-eleven for me is that it begins to put the U.S. on an equal footing with the rest of the world when it comes to the back-story of political attitudes and behaviors.
Living for most of my life in various European countries has made me aware that both public and official reactions to events are colored by past history, learned and repeated over generations of life-times. Until now, the U.S. has not possessed the kind of history that has marked other peoples: the only wars on our soil were of our own making. Nine-eleven marked the first attack by an outside enemy on what we only now call “the homeland”. Other nations have used that expression, as in “the fatherland”(Germany), or “the motherland (France), for generations.
Yet tragically, our political class does not seem to have been in any way transformed by that now-shared experience. We still don’t understand why the Europeans are reluctant to accept “defensive” missiles intended to deter Teheran, and why they are not going to go head to head with Russia over Georgia - or anything else.
Another example - particularly sad at this moment - is our insistence on punishing Cuba for being an experiment in socialism. For almost fifty years’ we’ve maintained a blockade on that tiny country, while cheerfully accepting abusive regimes by the dozen. I don’t think it’s only because these might serve our purposes - or because of the exile vote. The policy is so old that American leaders have ceased to examine its rationality. While Cuba could be seen as a threat when it harbored Soviet missiles, that was forty-five years ago, and the same country (now called Russia) that provided the missiles is now a partner of sorts.
Newscasters report hundreds of deaths in Haiti, compared to half a dozen in next door Cuba, without being allowed to add that the Cuban government has created well-oiled means and mechanisms for protecting the lives of its citizens, much less that these citizens live rent and tuition free, and have enjoyed free health care since the very earliest years of the revolution.
Nine-Eleven's legs could carry us far, but they're still invisible.