The world remembers the tragedy, especially those who pay the price.
Rumsfeld choked back the tears, McCain and Obama call a political ceasefire and 7 years on, Americans remembered the day that they became ‘acquainted with the night’, in the words of Robert Frost that Rumsfeld chose to quote.
People used to ask each other ‘where were you when Kennedy was shot?’. Who above the age of 20 couldn’t say where they were when the Towers fell? Across the world people were glued to their TV sets watching the unthinkable explosions again and again and again.
So it was understandable when American travelers in India had fits of rage to see models of the burning towers in the street during Diwali, the Festival of Light or the t-shirts of Osama Bin Laden set against the explosions that were on sale across South East Asia.
How could such a monumental tragedy be trivialised, even mocked on the other side of the world? Maybe it really was a case of ‘you’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists’ as Bush said days after the attack in his classic talent for reduction.
Why could so many people across the world really not care less about such a terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of thousands?
9/11 in Proportion
First of all, allow us the liberty of stating an obvious truth: it’s terrible when anyone is killed, be they American or not.
However, given that most of the money, power and media of the world are concentrated in the rich, largely white countries of the world, it’s no surprise which deaths get the most attention. Check out the millions of African children who die every year of malaria, a preventable disease. But then, children dying slowly in rundown hospitals just doesn’t have the same media pull as exploding planes.
As Tanzanian malaria researcher Wen Kilama observed:
‘If seven Boeing 747s full of children crashed into a mountain every day, would the world take measures to prevent it?‘
Of course these days we live in a wired world where all the news is at our fingertips and we’re swiflty informed of acts of real violence.
So hands up anyone who knows which war took the lives of over 5 million people in the last decade? Iraq? Uh, uh. Afghanistan? Uh, uh.
The Second Congo War in what used to be known as Zaire. How many of you could even find it on the map?
But if we must focus on the wars in which Western soldiers risk their lives, let’s have a quick look at the stats.
Or in Afghanistan where thousands of civilians die each year from NATO air strikes in the ongoing Afghan conflict that began with the Soviet invaion in 1979 and has turned the entire country into a disaster zone.
So What About 9/11?
We can hear the Stars and Stripes rattling already and the death threats coming in. So we’ll repeat the observation that some have probably forgotten already: it’s terrible when anyone is killed. 9/11 was an unjustified act of violence that should never be forgotten.
Nor is it likely to be for the civilian populations of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere who pay the price.