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Monday, August 30, 2004

POLITICIZING 9/11, WHO US?
The reason why the Republicans chose to hold their national convention in New York, one of the "gayest, jewiest, unionist, liberal cities in the country" according to the Daily Show's Jon Stewart, is not a very well kept secret. The Republicans had never held their convention in the liberal bastion that is New York City before this year. They've also never pushed their nomination show back on the calendar as far as they have this year, kicking off their king's quest for another term a mere week before the three-year anniversary of 9/11.

Two years ago, when the GOP picked the Apple as its convention spot, the idea seemed brilliant to many. Karl Rove, the president's number one adviser often referred to as "Bush's Brain", was hailed once again as a genius. But things have changed quite a bit in the last two years and the idea now seems a little like insanity and a lot like suicide. For this reason, the GOP has eliminated the use of Ground Zero for photo-ops and has attempted to downplay 9/11 as a reason for staging its convention carnival here in the first place. But don't be fooled, the conservative ranks are here in this cesspool of sin and liberal debauchery for only one reason, and that is to use Gotham's terrorized backdrop to promote the idea that George W. Bush is tough on terror, unlike that mamby-pamby, French-loving atheist John Kerry. Day one of the convention, which just kicked off a few hours ago, went something like this: "Republicans referred repeatedly to the Sept. 11 attacks and praised Bush for his character, leadership and aggressive response, drawing an implied contrast with his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts." So there you go.

I, like many New Yorkers, am bothered by this exploitation, whether it's subtle or in our faces. After 9/11 I remember getting a little irrational at times when people from other parts of the country, who weren't in the shadow of the towers when they came down and didn't lose nearly two-dozen friends and colleagues, would tell me how hard it was for them to carry on in the days and weeks after the attacks. They would tell me they understood how I, and more disturbingly, the families of the victims, must have felt. I know their sentiments were genuine and they were only trying to show compassion and understanding, but ever since that day I get upset whenever people who aren't New Yorkers or didn't know someone personally who perished cite 9/11 as a reason or an excuse for their actions.

Now, obviously, Bush needs to talk about 9/11. I'm not at all saying that the Republicans should ignore the realities of that day, that would be ridiculous. But to come here, to the scene of the crime, and repeatedly dredge up the horrors of that day is abhorrent and unnecessary. He could've talked about 9/11 anywhere, but he was hoping for the photo-op that he's now not going to get. But speakers at this week's convention will talk about the president's strength and success in the war on terror, it's the number one plank in their platform.

Don't believe the hype. Just because Bush threw his arm around the shoulder of a firefighter atop the rubble that was the remains to the World Trade Center doesn't mean he's the most qualified for the job. When he stood atop that mound of twisted concrete and steel he said the "people that knocked down these buildings would hear from us very soon." But the very man responsible for the attacks remains elusive while Bush turned his attention to Saddam Hussein and launched an unprovoked war on Iraq. Meanwhile, the very city that suffered most, New York, is under a permanent Orange alert and still in the crosshairs of al Qaeda. We don't feel any safer, despite the bullshit you'll be hearing from Republican mouths this week.

Amazingly, liberals, which most New Yorkers are, repeatedly get accused by the president's supporters of not understanding what we're facing. Of ignoring the real dangers of terrorism. Of pretending that 9/11 never happened. This charge is about as twisted as it gets. Of all the people in this country who understand the realistic dangers of terrorism, you'd think the city who lost nearly 3,000 of its citizens on 9/11 would understand them best. But because of this administration's constant fear-mongering and black-and-white scenarios, people in the heavily red middle of the country have been manipulated into thinking that if it weren't for Bush's tough actions and cowboy rhetoric, al Qaeda would have taken over the country by now. But it's more complicated than that. We New Yorkers know how dangerous the world is, we've experienced it first hand. We've buried our friends. We've run through the smoke and the dust and the ash. Out there, far off in the red states, their experience comes mostly from listening to the hyperbolic spin of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. Who do you think has a better understanding of the dangers we face today?


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