Hard to believe it's been five years--or about one fifteenth of my likely lifespan--since 9/11. A lot has happened since, much of it dreadfully misguided in my opinion (Abu Ghraib, secret detentions, Guatanamo Bay, the Iraq war, torture). But on 9/12, when there were buff jocks beating up Egyptian exchange students and waving Don't Tread on Me banners here in Towson, I thought things were going to be much worse domestically than they turned out. I literally expected the Full Orwellian Monty: suspension of elections, martial law, the deputization of right-wing militias under the Posse Commitatus Act, etc.
The US still functions, even though the priorities and principles of our leaders are wrong-headed. The Constitution has taken a few licks, most particularly the Bill of Rights--but that process had been steadily progressing for years, and had continued under Clinton. I feared the Bill of Rights would be gone by this time. I also assumed that huge terror strikes in the US would be regular over the last five years, and that the cowboy lunatic in the Oval Office would launch nukular missiles at somebody.
Fortunately I was wrong on all counts. I won't diminish how badly derailed much of our politics is, nor how costly the Iraq misadventure and all its dread consequences have been or will continue to be. I won't minimize how badly ineffective the government has been under President Frank Burns. But again things could have gone much worse; fortunately the compliant media woke up after a couple years or we'd likely be fighting Iran and Syria too right now. The Bushies got away with a lot using fear-mongering. They could have gone further. The excessive response of the Bushies to 9/11 and their failures after Katrina might actually turn out to be a strong basis for progressive politics in the future (that is if an actual progressive movement can get going again to capitalize on the widespread current disgust with right-wing cleptomaniacs running DC).
We'll see. All I know is I've been to NYC and DC and Pennsylvania many times over the last half-decade, and were I some Rip Van Winkle who'd somehow slept since August 2001 until now I'd not really see much difference while walking around, despite all that 'the world was forever changed' rhetoric. Yes, the skyline is dramatically different in NY, resembling a big smile with its two front teeth missing, and walking around Chinatown still feels weird without those looming towers. But it's remarkable how people have accepted, adjusted, and continued their lives. Unfortunately in Kabul and Baghdad people can't yet do the same thing--perhaps after a tectonic political shift here in November there will be hope for them too. Diebold might have something to say about that, however.
Of course it's possible to think things could be much worse and still agree with Billmon that things are pretty awful. We're unfortunate at this time to have in our legislative and executive branches a crew of people who HATE government and think its only purpose is to enhance the ability of the rich to increase their fortunes. They've succeeded magnificently at that.