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Al Qaeda

Remembering 9/11 So Many Years Later

twin towers

Eleven years ago today, the worst attack on American soil occurred and changed the course of history forever.  Several hijacked planes would end the comfort of the 90s and strike some of our most beloved architectural achievements.  The ensuing decade would usher in hard times complete with two foreign wars, extreme partisan politics and the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression.

Today we are forced to watch what will seem like a looping video of flight 175 striking the South Tower of the World Trade Center.    We’ll also hear from the 9/11 families and testimonies of those who were able to escape the burning towers.  While gut wrenching, it is important that we never forget the tragedy that forever changed the direction of our country, for both better and worse.

The issue is a particularly emotional one for us at as several of us were in Manhattan on September 11, 2001.  This is the first time I will refer to myself in a article.  What started as a typical morning of college classes, quickly turned into one of the worst days of my life.  Immediately following the attacks, it was difficult to discern exactly what was going on.  In midtown everyone was frantic, but information was not easy to come by.  Cell phone networks were overloaded and although close to the carnage, it took some time to figure out what really happened.  A fellow student told me that the Empire State Building was struck by a plane.

That ultimately was not the case, but an even worse scenario played out as two icons of the sky would later fall, taking with them thousands of lives from the buildings and on the aircraft.  Though we had entered the internet age, we were still years away from the smartphone and wifi age, so televisions in local delis and restaurants were the first source of reliable information for many on that day.  The mood and scene was reminiscent of many classic movies as so many were huddled around the old style tube televisions.  After many unsuccessful attempts to contact friends and family through my cell phone, I was finally able to speak with a family member on a pay phone.

I still had no idea of the scope of these attacks and I will never forget the most striking words I ever heard someone tell me.  On the worst phone call of my life I was told “The World Trade Center is gone,” in plain language leaving no ambiguity.  In reality the towers had not toppled yet, still emitting black smoke that seemed to emanate from hell itself.  I would then walk the longest 13 city blocks of my life to a friend’s apartment just before 10:00 am.  Almost immediately after I walked in, the South Tower collapsed.  I was hopeful that at least one tower would stand, but then shortly after, all hope seemed lost as the North Tower came down.  Many hours later a friend and I were on the roof of his building, watching the cloud of dust and debris move toward us (not a very good idea in retrospect as many health complications have been linked to debris and dust from the towers).  We then heard a loud boom, which we would later find out was 7 World Trade Center crashing down.

On this day we are taking a break from legal updates and the election.  Today we want to reflect on what was lost and on what was gained.  Even if only for a short time, I have never witnessed so much comradery and unity as I did in the days coming out of September 11th.  Including the 19 hijackers, 2,996 people died on 9/11 and while the hijackers will not receive any sympathy or understanding from me, they too had families, families they walked out on in order to achieve selfish and misguided goals.  Hopefully that too will serve as a reminder, a reminder of the ineptitude of terrorism.  Those men died only for the world to see the death of Osama Bin Laden, a dismantling of Al Qaeda, and an architectural masterpiece rise from the ashes.

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Anti-Marijuana Propaganda from the Mid-20th Century

marijuana propaganda

For over 70 years Marijuana has been illegal in the United States.  In that time, the powers-that-be have used many forms of propaganda to maintain their control over people’s fear of cannabis in order to prevent the reforms happening today.  Initially, the fear and hatred of marijuana was stirred up by Henry J. Anslinger and his cunning use of racism and bigotry.  Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst (Hearst publishing) preyed upon the feelings of the white majority and ideas of miscegenation (white women + not-white men).  They also made sure people feared a minority uprising, led by unstoppable drugged-out berserker pot-heads.  To this day there are still people who fear this, and push for continuing anti-marijuana legislation.  However, one fear cannot be stoked continuously for 70 years.  As time went by new fears were co-opted and put to use for the war on drugs.

Cannabis and hemp were made illegal in the 1930’s, but hemp was then re-allowed in World War 2 because of its industrial use.  After the war ended the ban was reinstated and something else was needed to enforce it.  Enter the threat to National Security.  That’s right, after the Nazis were defeated and ideas of Superior Races were less popular the country needed something else to unify it.  America had a new enemy… Communism!  After the war, Anslinger continued to consolidate power into the government apparatus that would eventually become the DEA.  With Senator Hale Boggs as his partner, President Harry Truman was convinced that drugs were being utilized by Communist China to subvert Americans and undermine our democracy.  In 1951 Truman signed the Boggs Act which imposed strict penalties for violating the import/export laws pertaining to drugs. Part of these penalties were tough mandatory minimum prison sentences.  In 1961, Anslinger had JFK used the US influence at the UN to push for an anti-drug convention that eventually saw over 100 countries agree to make marijuana illegal.  It would not be the last time that national security would be used as a scapegoat for anti-drug sentiment.  All of this helped build the reaction to the counterculture of the 1960’s and 70’s.

In the 1980’s and 90’s, most anti-drug PSA’s (Public Service Announcement) were focused on the negative effects of drugs on the mind, body and social ties.  Anybody remember the “This is your brain on drugs” video with the smashed egg?  Well, after the terror attacks of September 11, that type of ad moved to the back burner in favor of a terror and drugs cocktail.  Many drugs are produced and exported by terror-supporting organizations (not going to debate that here) but once again cannabis was also targeted in these ads.  So the teenager buying a bag from his dealer (which was probably grown domestically, in some backwood) is now helping Al-Qaeda to blow up airplanes and shoot marines.  One particular PSA shows two men debating the truth of this.  The skeptic says he doesn’t believe it, and the other guy says “It’s true,” repeatedly until the other man is convinced. There’s no evidence offered, or even a counterargument. He maintains his position and eventually the other guy is converted.  As a 30-second tv spot makes a strong emotional impression, which is the crux of most propaganda.  Facts are distorted in order to evoke an emotional response, which has been proven to create a stronger impression than just a factual argument… so far.

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