|In the wake of 9/11, not only did America come together -- the whole world stood with us. “Today,” it was repeated everywhere, “we are all Americans.” With breathtaking arrogance, exceeded only by stunning incompetence, the Bush/Cheney administration destroyed that unity in a matter of months.
The disastrous failures of the administration have come at a tragic cost both at home and abroad. And the aftermath of its tactics have unfairly saddled the young people in these images with a shameful legacy. How could their parents’ generation have gone along with a trumped-up and irrelevant “preemptive war?” How could they have accepted a gulag of secret prisons, tacitly approved of torture, tolerated illegal domestic spying and all the rest? How is it that at each critical juncture, the media and the Democrats were cowed into acquiescence? Could the administration’s flag-waving and fear-mongering really have been so intimidating?
In fact, during the headlong rush to war, millions of people both in America and across the world took to the streets in opposition to the reckless hubris of the president and his men. Some of the pictures here record the language of those protests. But their voices were glibly dismissed by the smirking ideologues in charge. Instead, they blundered on with upside-down strategies that unified and multiplied our enemies even as they divided and alienated our friends. They eroded American justice and devastated our nation’s moral standing in the world.
And so today our vulnerabilities have hardly diminished. A new attack would, as we saw on 9/11, bring out America’s best, just as surely as it would fail to defeat us. On the contrary, we are defeated only when the enormous tragedy of such a crime is played on to license illegitimate war and the corruption of a free society.
September 6, 2006
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Catalog essay for Neo-Icons exhibition at Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA
October 19 to November 22, 2006
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