The False Patriotism of 9/11

It has been 17 years since the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, a massive loss of life that we continue to grieve today.

For 17 years, American lawmakers and citizens have co-opted the reflection and reverence due on this day to advance a garish strain of faux patriotism that uses 9/11 as cover to submit to our basest, fear-driven politics.

Photo by Brett Sayles on

9/11 brought out our absolute worst instincts as a nation: imperialism, bigotry, erosion of civil liberties. And it continues to be invoked today to defend these abhorrent American impulses, all under the banner of national security. We invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and left a power vacuum to be filled by more terrorists, all while lying about the reasons for the invasion. In the name of preventing another 9/11, we lost nearly twice as many American soldiers as people killed in the attacks, killed 150,000+ Iraqi civilians, and created a new class of veterans replete with all the chronic problems that befall the newly-returned-from-war. We plopped down in Afghanistan and are still there, 17 years later. We set up black sites around the world to torture other human beings after illegally kidnapping and detaining them with no due process, and continued to support the practice even after all evidence rendered it an ineffective method of soliciting information. We discriminated against Muslims, banning entire countries’ worth of people, including some of the world’s most desperate refugees. We turned Americans against immigrants and anyone representing the “other.” We wiretapped and surveilled American citizens, systematically mining and storing their data in quantities so huge they require their own warehouses. We sent drones over the Middle East to kill indiscriminately, to the point that children there are literally afraid of the sky.

And we constructed a bullshit version of American patriotism narrowly defined by a loud minority that supports the above-mentioned atrocities; those who believe that ostentatious flag worshiping and standing for the National Anthem are the biggest indicators of American allegiance. Rest assured, these people aren’t forgetting 9/11 and you can count on their social media to remind you.

And we shouldn’t forget 9/11, either. With each year that passes, the memories of those lost become a little hazier, and our stories of that day become more nebulous, and we should fight to hold onto those recollections. But to “never forget” means to remember a fully contextualized 9/11, a flashpoint of some of the darkest facets of our recent history. A blind devotion to a perverted ideology drove the 9/11 hijackers to barbarity. As a tribute to those who perished, let us remind ourselves and our lawmakers not to allow our own blind and perverted nationalism to beget more inhumanity; true patriotism can only come from holding America to the highest moral standard.

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