Curtain Raiser

The Unpaid Bills of September, Colltalers

It all happened in a sunny Tuesday, 39 years ago tomorrow. Come again? That’s no typo; Sept. 11 has been tragic before, but in Chile, not in the U.S. In 2001, the initial tragic tally was some three thousand lost on that day.
In Chile, the victims of the bloody military coup that befell democratically elected President Salvador Allende and thousands of his allies was smaller but grew exponentially in the months that followed.
The consequences of the Al Qaeda attack, of course, became even bigger, and served as justification to two catastrophic wars, the one in Iraq being far from over, despite that it is, on paper; and the other, in Afghanistan, likely to outlast another political cycle.
Thousands of lives and billions, perhaps trillions of dollars were spent in these two tragic adventures that may’ve cost our moral standard in the world for good. And, arguably, haven’t meant much for the overall purpose of preventing another attack on U.S. soil.
The tyrant that ruled Chile for 17 years, and may have put to the limit the character of its society, died a happy, old and wealthy man, having successfully avoided any persecution, and with no little help from the U.S. and U.K..
The relatives and supporters of the many who were murdered during the terror took the streets of Santiago once more this weekend, to mark the black period, and protest the impunity that followed it. Their courage is admirable but unlikely to change anything.
Thus, we have all these balances left unsettled in the accounts of millions: those who perished on and after Sept. 11, 1973, in Chile, and 2001, in the U.S.; their family and friends; the ones responsible for the twin Tuesdays of infamy; and those who never cease to profit from everybody’s misery.
Whether we choose to embark on the rewinding of those bloody events, with all the cheap shots and phony speeches to boot, or decide to go back under our rock, it’s irrelevant. This week will be loaded in recalculation but quite unlikely to bring us any closer to a final bill.
A book by a former Navy Seals, released to coincide with this year’s anniversary of the 2001 attacks in the U.S., is yet another account to be added to those unpaid bills. Written by someone who was there when Osama bin Laden was killed, the book has a powerful link to the attacks and their aftermath.
Despite that, it’s unlikely it’ll help bridge the many subplots that have neutralized and dissociated that tragedy’s enduring impact on our lives. Some may feign disgust by its supposed revelations, but they’re not about to go all out on the ‘singing’ Seal, nor they should.
Bounced from tomorrow’s inspiring speeches will be the outrageous decisions made in our name, the lack of accountability by those responsible for them; the unconstitutionality of imprisoning enemy combatants without charging them; the illegality of wire tapping; the absurd engorging of our military defense system; and so much that has been forgotten.
Tragedies can both contract our lives, and multiply our doubts. They subtract us from others who we care about; from the faith we need to carry on; and from the forward-thinking steps we’re forced to retreat. And then they force us to add a lot of what we should never be proud of even considering: fear of our neighbors, suspicions about our leaders, and mistrust about our own motivations.
So tomorrow, we may think about the world that was before these two 9/11s, the lives that didn’t make beyond them, and what’s happening to those of us who’re about to place yet another 24 hours between us and them.
One thing is not about to happen by the time the day is done, though: we will not be done with it just yet. We’ll be still paying for these dates, with no sign that our settlement is any closer that it was 11 or 39 years ago tomorrow.
But as we don’t know what it’ll take to put it all behind us, we still won’t forget it. And even if death is no payback, and justice equals to nothing for those who have already been laid to rest, we’re still here. And it may be up to us to make sure that twice is more than enough. And another one, an impossibility. Have a great week. WC

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