9/11 at 13, part II: This Means War
Yesterday I began our remembrance of 9/11, 13 years ago with my and Tony’s memories of September 11, a post called Shock and Awe. Today, I want to talk about what happened afterwards, the wars and the people who willingly went off to fight them for us.
Like the rest of America on 9/12 I was pissed off and ready to kick ass. And at the time most of the rest of the world wanted to join us. Al-Qaida and affiliated groups had terrorized and murdered people around the world; bin Laden made it abundantly clear he hated not just the “Great Satan” but every nation and people that rejected his idea of “real Islam,” including his own people, the Saudi Arabians, who kicked his ass out years ago. When Colin Powell appeared before the UN with evidence Saddam Hussein—a man known to have used chemical weapons* against his own people—was developing biological and nuclear weapons, for many that just proved it was high time to clean house across the Middle East.
If you’ll forgive the aside, I sometimes can’t believe my ears when I hear people say Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein. Really? Yeah, we made a lot of mistakes in Iraq—the WMDs Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove had Powell swear Saddam had turned out to be a mirage; once Saddam was out of the way they thought they could “democratize” Iraq quick and cheap—when history proves freedom is never won quickly or cheaply. By Obama’s election America wanted out of Iraq because—as politicians never seem to learn—Americans fucking hate being lied to. But to say Iraq was better off under a murderous thug like Hussein because then they wouldn’t have to worry about other murderous thugs—you might as well tell me we were better off under the British because at least we’d have national health insurance!
I never had the honor to serve in the US military. I wanted to join up after 9/11, but I’m too old. But I could still honor those who have served and do serve, and that is a major theme of the 9/11 Project: to capture, as much as I could, the thoughts and feelings of the people who left family, friends, and comfortable lives “Stateside” to go places most people can’t find on a map, and have to do things most people don’t want to even think about. Many of the songs in This Means War—and in the Project as a whole–explore that reality: “Suicide Bomber,” “There Will Always be a War,” and “War is Madness.”
In other songs like “My God vs. Your God,” “Plastic Jesus” and “God is Good” I wanted to explore how religion, which for many people is a source of faith and hope in a world where bad things happen to good people, is so frequently twisted to whip otherwise rational, compassionate people up like rabid animals—and I do NOT just mean Islam; Christians have a long history of using the Bible to justify the anti-Christian.
Of course, it’s not all negative: when I put the 9/11 Project together, I had my friends Kyle Douglas and Tony over to my house to shoot some music videos of selected songs. One of these was “Don’t Forget a Soldier.”
I’ve had people—veterans—calling me at 3:00 in the morning to tell me it was “fucking awesome.” Before the sun even rose, he made my day.
You wouldn’t know it listening to it, but that song was born of anger. I was once in Washington DC, visiting the National Archives, where the Constitution is stored. I step outside and see a man in a wheelchair holding a cardboard sign.
Scrawled on it were the words “Vietnam Vet—Please Help.”
I was furious. Not at the vet—but that in the midst of the wealthiest, most bountiful society ever, in its very heart, in the shadow of the building housing its foundational documents; that someone who was willing to put on a uniform and swear to “preserve, protect and defend” our people and those documents could end up on the streets, begging, of no more apparent value than the other trash in the gutter.
I also wanted to celebrate in This Means War the election of 2008, and the Inauguration in 2009, of Barack Hussein Obama as our 44th President—after an election that saw the highest voter turnout in recent memory.
Not only is Obama our first President of African-American descent, but the first President of (admitted) mixed-race descent, the first President from the newest state in our Union: Hawaii, and only the seventh President with a foreign-born parent (the last was Herbert Hoover, in 1929!)
You know, though he was re-elected in 2012, and continues to enjoy higher approval ratings than Congress, neither Tony nor I can remember a President ever facing such virulent criticism as Obama. While this level of bile is, unfortunately, not unprecedented in American politics, we think most of it comes from fear of what Obama represents: a changing face of America.
For most of its history, the “face” of America was defined by European immigrants and their children; oftentimes new waves of immigrants would be met with discrimination and scorn, but would quickly melt seamlessly into the features of earlier generations. Now, in the 21st century, increased interracial marriage, establishment of African Americans, and increasing numbers of non-European immigrants promise to change America’s “look” and “sound” even as they themselves assimilate. Obama is the first “official” mixed-race President—and will certainly not be the last.
But Tony and I are like, even if America’s “face” and even her “voice” change in the future due to changing demographics, her heart will always be the same, for it’s that heart that continues to inspire us and others worldwide.
Wow. Another long one. Okay I will conclude this next post, I promise. Besides, I want to talk more about how what started as an album grew—again almost of its own accord—into a full-on musical play, and one that’s going to knock your socks off!
OK, peace everybody.
*After chemical weapons were first used on a large scale in WWI, their effects on people were judged so horrible—even more than bullets or bombs—their use and possession were banned by international treaty.