Thursday, September 11, 2003
A Day Worth Remembering

I'm not exactly sure what to write this morning. I had a mind to just leave off blog-posting for the day. But as I sit here (my housemate offered me some of his breakfast, so I have a bit more time this AM) prepped for class, I keep thinking that I should write something. After all, the day did change the world. It's interesting, in my view, how many people I meet that try to insist that nothing's really changed, nothing's really different. I guess that comes from going to school in Canada, rather than the US. Of course, all the stuff I read about US university goings-on makes me wonder if it's really all that different an experience.

So what's changed? What's different? Well, on a large scale, the tyrannical regimes of two countries have been overthrown. The United States has moved into 'Pre-Emptive' mode. The U.N. seems on the verge of some sort of collapse or reform. World opinion has shifted on several issues (and on others, it has become more resolute). In the US, again from what I read, the 'opposition' (as they'd call them here in the Great White North) seems in a bit of a shambles - a dissarrayed scattering of widely ranged opinions among a group of more than 9 presidential hopefuls, and their constituents.

What about the small scale? What about individuals? Living in Canada, I can't really get a read on what the average US citizen is feeling, or doing, or thinking. I know that up here, the majority of people I meet (and granted, I'm in Southern Ontario - which is the political equivalent of New York or California) seems a little unfazed. A bit confused. A bit uninformed. Just like I was when the whole thing began. The anti-Americanism (though largely suppressed whenever I'm around) is nearly palpable around the campus. Even the American students I meet get agitated when they learn who I voted for last election, and who I'll probably vote for again next year. It's not a very warm place for American supporters at the moment.

But why? Wasn't Canada a co-mourner in the 9/11 tragedy? Didn't they lose people? Didn't they suffer along with the US? Well...let me give some of my thoughts on this, on the Day We Remember: (see? Now I've figured out what to write about!)

I was involved in a discussion many months ago with a few friends down in the city my family lives in (also in Ontario). The gist of the argument I made then was that Canada, as much as it may have grieved at the attack and the loss of life (including those of some of their citizens), would never feel what Americans felt. Would never hurt the way that Americans hurt. Would never have what some have referred to as a 'moral awakening' they way Americans did. Not because of some inherent difference between the two nations, but because Canada was not the country attacked.

For all of the US's rhetoric about how 'the Western world' is the true target of these terrorists (and besides the fact that it really is true), 'the Western world' was not what was physically attacked on 9/11. Those terrorists chose the United States. They chose the icons of New York and Washington, D.C. They might easily (perhaps more easily) have crashed planes in Toronto, or Paris, or London, or Berlin - but they didn't. They attacked what they viewed as the seat of 'Western' power; but the 'Western' world isn't as unified as certain politicos would like us to believe. Things that happen in Canada, things that happen in Britain, things that happen in France - they have more impact in the countries in which they take place than in their neighbors (even if their neighbors are right next door).

I read (but didn't agree) with a philosophical definition of 'personhood' that included only people we personally know. The idea is that 'personhood' is fully dependant on those who care for us, or who have a personal investment (of some type) in us. While I detest the idea in essence (personhood doesn't rely on others, I believe - it is an intrinsic part of being human), it really does ring true in a few circumstances. Why doesn't it send us into a rage, or hysterics, when we hear about millions of people who are dying in Africa, or the oppression that occurs in the various countries of the Middle East? Because we aren't there. Because we aren't directly affected. That's the key, I think. That's why Canada will never truly 'get' why the US is now the way it is, why it has adopted the policies it has. It confuses and angers the typical Canadian because he or she hasn't truly experienced those things that their neighbors to the south have.

Obviously, there are exceptions. Those families of the Canadians who died in the WTC were indeed directly affected by the attack, and may even accept the new order of the world as a reality. But by and large Canadians don't. Even those Canadian political pundits that write so absolutely in favor of the war on terror (Mark Steyn, David Frum, and others) - as right as they may be (and as much as I admire their positions), I don't believe they can fully feel the pain, anguish, and absolute resolve that hit the United States that day. Through no fault of Canada's own, they can't understand - it's really the difference between empathy and sympathy.

The conversation I had a few months ago ended with my Canadian friends rather peeved at me for suggesting that they didn't know the kind of pain that Americans now do. And they can still be rather distressed that I think this. Their feelings, however, don't change the fact that the targets of the attacks were on US soil, were the lives of US citizens, and were the symbols of US nationality. As much as they might hurt for us, the sympathizer, in the end, is unable to feel the victim's pain.

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A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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