I remember the Tuesday in September. The morning was crisp, clear and with eye-watering bluest of blue skies. I had already finished morning barn chores and was in the house having coffee, checking the net and listening to the tee vee. For the next three hours, I watched the sky overhead where normally the aircraft were in their final landing pattern turnaround to the local metropolis’ airport gradually clear of all thing winged and rotored. The silence and stillness was ominous and dreadful, even though the sounds of nature could finally be heard as intended.
The US on that day, could have moved forward by examining the hows and whys of terrorism. It could have held steady on the solid bedrock of tolerance and inclusion, dignity and respect for all. It could have made conditions permanently inhospitable to terrorism by not condoning and allowing bigotry, bullying and alienation.
But instead, the US was led by the nose in exactly the opposite direction by Dick Cheney, ostensibly the president in deed if not in title, George W Bush who never had a single edifying thought, but instead sought retaliation, retribution and revenge for deeds real and imagined, the Cabinet of fundamentalist Christians and lobbyist-tainted hangers-on – power and control mongers all, a Supreme Court which is firmly Corporatist and devoid of human decency, a media which is commercially bought and paid for to produce “what the viewer wants” – meaning what the viewer watches/reads that leads to advertising revenue, and a willfully ignorant citizenry which indeed paid attention to all of the above and neglected to apply critical thinking and adequate skepticism to the calls for war, violence, national paranoia, suspicion and a (permanent) suspension of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
Instead of building a welcoming and open society, we have let it go to wrack and ruin. Instead of educating thinking productive citizens, we have trained a nation of gullible test takers. Instead of building on the classical virtues, we have a nation of individuals that don’t know the first thing about voluntary cooperation, collaboration and compassion for the greater good and for our fellow humans.
We could have spent our dollars on research, new technologies, renewable energy, professional growth and development, infrastructure renewal and development and transportation growth. We could have invested in our citizenry with healthcare, education, healthy-based communities and in the liberal and fine arts.
Instead, we have funded wars, terrorism, global arms, an enormous, off the books contracted spy industry, state-sponsored violence and government disruptions. We have criminalized mental illness. We have made prisons the largest growth industry in the US. We have made over one third of Americans too poor to afford necessary health care. We have turned out a generation of Americans who are ill prepared to be engaged and informed citizens and who do not have the ability to be successful in a trade or profession. We have neglected everything from the air we breathe to the food we eat, the water we drink to the ground in which our crops are grown.
We have gone from a two party political system to a one party, corporatocracy. There isn’t any point in voting, as there is no one to vote FOR as a legitimate representative of the constituency.
We are constantly surveilled via cameras, data bases and undisclosed programs and organizations. We are extolled to “see something, say something”. Everyone has been made into an out group. We are prompted every day in many ways to be “alert, be aware” and be suspicious of everyone and everything around us.
On this day of reflection, I mourn for the lives lost on September 11, 2001, as well as for all of the lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, & Pakistan by both military and civilians. I mourn for those affected by any act of terrorism. I mourn for alienated people who react to ostracism with extremism. I mostly mourn for the loss of the Republic. Franklin said that it would last only “if you can keep it”. But none of us did, and it’s gone.
What’s in its place is a worn out shell filled with a people made very weak and seemingly still without a will and the means to try to take it back.
This is a demoralized people, and more and more of its inhabitants are becoming hopeless about it because of their seeming helplessness and the betrayal by those who promised, hope, change, transparency and equality.
And as more citizens are deemed to be burdensome by politicians (failure to extend unemployment, criminalization of homelessness, retrenchment of Medicaid and , ostracism), will the national collective perception of thwarted belongingness propel civil unrest or violence?
I bring this up because as the two fundamental conditions for people to choose to act on suicidal ideation, on a large scale, I wonder what actions people might take when these conditions become intolerable to bear. Kip Williams discusses the final phase of ostracism when coping has failed to produce re-inclusion and affiliation as resignation (ostensibly to one’s fate as permanently ostracized – ed).
This is when people who have been ostracized are less helpful and more aggressive to others in general,” he said. “It also increases anger and sadness, and long-term ostracism can result in alienation, depression, helplessness and feelings of unworthiness.”
Williams is trying to better understand how ostracized individuals may be attracted to extreme groups and what might be the reactions of ostracized groups.
“These groups provide members with a sense of belonging, self-worth and control, but they can fuel narrowness, radicalism and intolerance, and perhaps a propensity toward hostility and violence toward others,” he said. “When a person feels ostracized they feel out of control, and aggressive behavior is one way to restore that control. When these individuals come together in a group there can be negative consequences.”