The Legacy of 9/11 is Fear

Does it seem like we have more laws now than we used to? Like there’s not a thing you can do in your daily life that the government doesn’t have some influence over or impact on?

Yeah, it’s nauseating to realize it, but we have become over-governed. I know, I know, what does this have to do with the delightful world of Brian Listo and the upcoming novel Before Pittsburgh? Isn’t this Teddy Ruxpin’s playhouse?

Yes, but it’s also Unapologetically X and I gotta get this out there. GenX has got to stop being afraid.

We are swept up in a crisis cycle of Event-Trauma-Legislation. Something terrible happens (a mass shooting) and we collectively grieve, tell survival stories, and speculate on the cause (mental illness, access to guns). Then we turn to our government officials and ask what they plan to do to keep this from happening again. Their only mechanism is legislation so, BOOM! New law.

It hasn’t always been this way, has it?

We haven’t always been afraid to walk our streets, attend public gatherings, or send our kids to the park. We haven’t always been this afraid.

Just for the last 20 years. Just since we woke up one Tuesday morning and terrorists plunged airplanes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and heroes thwarted a fourth attempt to weaponize a passenger jet. Just since 9/11.

We’re afraid of everything these days. Environmental poisoning. Human trafficking. Mass shootings. Police brutality. Pandemic. We’re so afraid we continue to surrender our rights in the name of safety. Listen to our cell phones. Hang surveillance cameras on our streets. Monitor our digital footprint. Spy on us. Keep us safe.

We’re afraid of everything except the lawmakers, the influencers, and the money that keeps us suppressed and cowering. 

We’re afraid of being publicly shamed and embarrassed. We’re afraid of our kids getting failing grades and missing out on a good college and $100k worth of student loan debt. We’re afraid the IRS will take our home, garnish our wages, and generally make paupers of us.

We’re afraid. And it’s not an accident.

September 11, 2001 showed GenX how vulnerable we were. As survivors, we felt compelled to make it count. We got working on establishing the kind of life we could be proud of. But the puppet masters were still there. The grifters were still grifting. And they’ve built a rigged system, tilted it in their favor, and reaped all the benefits of our work.

Photo by Thomas Svensson on

Since I was 22 years old, I’ve known I would never receive Social Security. Not because I’ll die before I reach age 65 but because the system is corrupt and unsustainable. That’s one of many truths I learned back in 2001. When the nation went to war, I learned Patriotism is a disease and we’re all infected. And I learned to be afraid. 

I know our government cannot legislate safety. I know. But not all of us do. A lot of us believe the lies we’re told and keep hoping government will stop making things worse and magically start making things better.

Because we’re afraid. We’re afraid we won’t live to see another day. We won’t live to see our kids grow up. We won’t be able to preserve this nation for our grandchildren. We will always be at war. We’re afraid. And that’s how they want us. It justifies all manner of grift to try to sell our safety back to us.

Since 9/11 we’ve been waiting to die. And they’ve been saying they’ll keep us safe. And in some ways, they have. I mean, we haven’t had another hijacked airplane incident. So, I guess that’s worth the price we’re paying.

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