Nearly 3,000 dead Americans used to mean something. How naïve I was

Nearly 3,000 dead Americans used to mean something. How naïve I was
AlterNet Exclusives

Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of September 11, 2001, the unforgettable day when terrorists under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, head of the al-Qaeda terror group, flew jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 Americans died that day, most of them instantly.

Three-thousand – that number has stayed with me through the years. It seemed to be a threshold of sorts in American politics. I used to think that if 3,000 people died as a consequence of politics, which is what 9/11 was, the people of this country would respond the way they did after that day, as if the thing that had killed 3,000 people were an existential threat to America.

How naive I was. My first clue was May 11, 2011, the day Bin Laden died. The culture seemed to agree that he was a monster deserving of death. Yet instead of jubilation, the response from much of the country was muted, as if the man who we all seemed to agree was a monster was not a monster. Otherwise, the response to his death wouldn’t have been so lukewarm.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

He was a monster. The problem, for much of the country, wasn’t that he was killed. The problem was that the wrong president was responsible for killing him. If they celebrated Bin Laden’s death, they risked celebrating Barack Obama’s life, which was unthinkable. He wasn’t America’s true president. He was an insurgent – maybe a terrorist himself – bent on destroying America. Because of him, they had to “take their country back.”

But it was the pandemic that disabused me. The administration of Donald Trump was negligent, incompetent and corrupt. For a brief moment, I thought, as the body count climbed toward 9/11 levels, that perhaps the Republicans, who had been protecting Trump from himself, might turn on him, believing at the very least that a derelict president had outlived his usefulness.

The body count kept rising, though, and nothing in the way of a patriotic September 11-style reaction came from the Republicans. Ever. In short order, the death toll surpassed 3,000. Then another 3,000. Then another, then another. First it was dozens of 9/11s. Then scores of them. Then hundreds of them. More than 1.17 million have died. That’s 390 9/11s.

Not only did the Republicans fail to respond for the sake of the country, as they did after September 11, they failed to respond for the sake of their own supporters. After the vaccine became available, most elected Republicans stood by while it was turned into a symbol of fidelity to Trump. Getting the shot was a sign of betrayal. Not getting the shot was a sign of loyalty.

READ MORE: Kari Lake blasted for exalting Trump as a '9/11 hero'

The result was hundreds of thousands of “excess deaths” during the second wave in GOP-controlled states, according to a new study by the Boston Uniterity and the University of Pennsylvania. While some of that can be attributed to a lack of healthcare infrastructure in rural areas, much of that can be attributed to “vaccine hesitancy fueled by a toxic mix of partisanship and misinformation,” said Andrew Stokes, one of the authors of the study.

So one 9/11 inspired a patriotic reaction from the Republicans while 390 9/11s have not. What about their vision of America can we learn from this? First, that the success of Black president can’t really be a success on account of his being a Black president, and that the failure of a white president can’t really be a failure on account of his being a white president.

Second is that a patriotic reaction depends on the race of the enemy. A brown Muslim who conspired to hijack jetliners and fly them into buildings represented an existential threat to America. Those 3,000 dead Americans could not be allowed to have died in vain. The “war on terror” commenced.

A white “Christian,” on the other hand, who neglected to perform a president’s most fundamental duty, was no such threat. There was no war against anything, because that would have meant a war against ourselves. Did hundreds of thousands of Americans, who died in loyalty to Donald Trump, die in vain? Maybe. But the Republicans don’t seem to care. If hundreds of thousands of “excess deaths” are power’s price, so be it.


That number used to mean something to me. It used to mean that if 3,000 people died as a consequence of politics, which is what 9/11 was, that the people of this country rise in unity against such an existential threat.

How naive I was.

READ MORE: Here are 12 things you shouldn't say to grieving atheists

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}
@2023 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by