By: Jason Lydon/TRT Columnist
Sept. 11, 2011, marks 10 years after the plane hijackings that were seen around the world. Many of us watched on our televisions as the World Trade Center buildings crumbled to the ground and parts of the Pentagon building were severely damaged. Thousands of people died that day in a great tragedy. Many families will never get to hold, kiss, teach or learn from the loved ones they lost that day.
The loss, tragically, did not stop on that devastating day. Through the month of September we will be bombarded with stories and claims that we were attacked that day because some faceless people “hate our freedom.” We will hear the heroic story of Mark Bingham, the openly gay man who was one of those who helped to crash flight 93 before it could hit its intended target. We will not, however, hear much about the Muslim families who were torn apart after that day. We will forget to tell the stories of how young Muslim men, and non-Muslims whose families were from the Arab world, were forced to register with the government and then often deported.
According to the U.S. Attorney General’s office, over 15,000 people were “detained and arrested” shortly after 9/11. The Immigration and Naturalization Services (now renamed Immigration and Customs Enforcement) along with the FBI, began surveillance and and targeted attacks on Arab and Muslim communities, a practice that continues right here in Massachusetts with the prosecution of Dr. Tarek Mehanna.
The mainstream press will neglect to tell the stories of how Japanese-American organizations joined together with Muslim Americans remembering the realities of the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 during WWII. When violence comes to the shores of the United States we have a pattern of targeting anyone who looks like those who caused us harm. As LGBTQ people we know what this is like. We know that our society creates judgements and tries to force all of us into their particular boxes of what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender.
The death and destruction that occurred on 9/11 continued when President George W. Bush sent bombs and troops to Afghanistan. There were many people who filled the streets of New York with tears on their faces as they called out, “our grief is not a cry for war.” The violence did not stop with the attacks on Afghanistan, it was then justified to start an internationally decried war with Iraq. The world’s largest protests occurred on Feb. 15, 2003, and troops still were marched off to war and a “shock and awe” attack rained down on the people of Iraq. Thousands of people tragically and maliciously died on 9/11, yet over a million have died since as a result of U.S. attacks in the Middle East. As we grieve the loss of life that occurred 10 years ago we must do so with attention to the continuing suffering.
The LGBTQ press has an opportunity to join in the conversation here. Bumper-sticker slogans are already being thrown around in preparation for anniversary commemorations. “Freedom isn’t free.” “United We Stand.” “God Bless America.” “These Colors Don’t Run.” What do these statements say to our LGBTQ family around the world? What do these statements say to the Iraqi queer young people who are drinking water poisoned with depleted uranium? What do these statements say to LGBTQ people here in the United States who can’t get access to their HIV medication or who are not getting access to HIV prevention education as funding gets cut? We need to recognize the tragedy of 9/11 within the context of U.S. imperialism. If we simply say that “they” hate our freedom, we will not find the justice we need for the world to heal. I hope that our LGBTQ family can honor the lives that were lost on that Tuesday 10 years ago without allowing the suffering that has gone on since then to be forgotten.