Thursday, August 5, 2010

9/11 ain't what it used to be

Remember when it was treasonous, in fact downright sacrilegious, to be against anything related to 9/11? That, after all, is how George Bush and the neo-cons sold their bogus war in Iraq, so that people wouldn't dare oppose it. It was all to do with 9/11 - and weapons of mass destruction - except that there was no link between Iraq and 9/11; we would have been more justified in attacking Saudi Arabia. And the weapons of mass destruction didn't exist. But I digress.

These days, though, it seems that 9/11 just doesn't carry the cachet that it once did. The House of Representatives has just proved it.

When the attack on New York came on that perfect late summer day in 2001, it wasn't only the emergency personnel in the city who responded. People from all over the country - some of them even from Texas - dropped what they were doing and went there to help. Some spent weeks or even months there amid the toxic air and debris combing through the rubble to recover bodies and body parts and clearing away that rubble so that New York could move on and rebuild. Many of those people are now suffering chronic and disabling illnesses because of that experience and their exposure to the things that were in the air or in that debris. Last week, there was a bill before the House to assist those people to get the medical care that they need, but because of "procedures", the bill needed a 2/3 majority vote to pass. It got a hefty majority, but not 2/3 and so the measure failed. Truly, 9/11 ain't what it used to be.

Anthony Weiner, the Democratic Representative of Queens and Brooklyn in New York, was infuriated by the Congress's action and didn't hesitate to let his colleagues have the full force of that fury in a rant on the House floor. Last night, on The Daily Show, Weiner's childhood friend, Jon Stewart, also weighed in on the issue in a segment called "I Give Up".

So what is the proper response to "politics as usual" in our government today? To get mad? To give up? I certainly understand the impulse for either action. It sometimes seems that our legislative process is so broken that it can never be fixed, and yet, if we are to survive as a nation, then it must be fixed. There must be a way found to get us back to a democracy, where majority rules. Not 2/3 or 3/4 majority - just a simple majority. Wasn't that what we were supposed to be about as a country? We apparently have forgotten a lot of the principles that are supposed to guide us as a people - just as we have forgotten the people who gave up their time and their good health to respond to 9/11.

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