Jon Schwarz is editor of MichaelMoore.com and was research producer for 'Capitalism: A Love Story.' He's also contributed to the New Yorker, New York Times, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Slate, Saturday Night Live and NPR.
Today, September 11, 2012, is a good time for a short quiz.
Here are the questions:
1. What is this?
What did you answer? Did you say "That's the last moments of the lives of thousands of people"? Or "That's a hideous act of mass murder"? Or "That's the beginning of a lifetime of suffering for everyone who loved someone who died at the World Trade Center"?
"Through my tears I see opportunity." – George Bush, September 20, 2001
"If the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11 bookend a major shift in international politics, then this is a period not just of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity. Before the clay is dry again, America and our friends and our allies must move decisively to take advantage of these new opportunities." – Condoleezza Rice, April 29, 2002
2. What is this?
This question is a little harder. Some people might answer, "That's the brutal Al Qaeda bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya on November 28, 2002 aimed at Israeli tourists." Others might say, "It's the place where terrorists murdered 13 people, including ten Kenyans and Israeli brothers Noy and Dvir Anter, ages 12 and 13." Or, "That's the place where, CNN reported, 'screaming children covered in blood searched desperately for their parents amid the wreckage.'"
They would also be wrong. The correct answer is, that is a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY:
"Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meeting with ministry staff in the aftermath of the Kenya attacks, said that the incidents had presented Israel with a 'golden opportunity' to strengthen its strategic ties with the United States and other Western countries."
3. What is this?
Some might guess, "That's a young Iraqi girl covered in the blood of her parents, who'd just been killed by U.S. soldiers terrified of car bombers." Or, "Something that every American should be atoning for until the day we die."
But again, that would be wrong. The right answer is, that's a picture of yet another GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY:
"Targeting America in Iraq in terms of economy and losses in life is a golden and unique opportunity. Do not waste it only to regret it later." – Osama bin Laden, December, 2004
• • • • •
Probably the point here is clear. But I'll go ahead and spell it out.
For normal people, it's an unmitigated tragedy when their fellow citizens are killed in terrorist attacks or wars. Normal people cry, become afraid, and think of children who now have no parents and parents who now have no children.
For our would-be "leaders," however – in every country – the situation is different. Of course, they pretend to feel the same as normal people. They give teary-eyed speeches about sorrow and suffering.
And yet, behind their tears, there seems to be something else. When they think no one is looking, you glimpse another expression flitting across their face. You think it couldn't be. But – yes, incredibly enough, they're smiling. Because before the bodies are cold, before the mothers have stopped shrieking, our leaders are thinking:
This is really a FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY.
And for them it is. It's an opportunity for them to do whatever they wanted to do before, but couldn't get away with. It's an opportunity for them to smear anyone who criticizes them as disloyal. It's an opportunity for them to become much more powerful than they ever could be in peacetime. Leaders love war. That's why there's so much of it.
It's understandably hard for normal people to come to terms with this. It's scary to believe your leaders may secretly be, uh, not so sad if you die. But all you have to do is listen to them, and they'll tell you.
Can we change this? Maybe. But the first step in changing reality is facing it, no matter how ugly and frightening it is.
Happy September 11th.
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