observations and opinion
Terror came screaming out of the beautiful 9/11 sky. Terrible truths fell from it. People and illusions vanished. Yet to this day, 15 years after, we refuse to acknowledge a key fact about the perpetrators.
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The morning of September 11, 2001 was a beautiful one across eastern North America. We can see it now on film, that perfect blue sky, transformed into a backdrop as the World Trade Center towers became giant chimneys, spewing flame, smoke and ash. We see the sunshine disappear in the thick clouds of dust that swallowed the south end of Manhattan.
That day, that evening, that night and the morning after, we felt the earth shudder. Whatever was going to happen next – and no one knew what that would be – the world would be different from now on. And it was. The west entered into a low grade fever of fear and containment, hot with Orange Alerts and shivering in the chill of relentless surveillance and airport security theatre. If we were at war on September 10th we didn’t know it. If we have not been at war any time since, we haven’t known that either.
Illusions fell with the twin towers that day. Facts were revealed, and new myths were born. Horrors occurred and were perpetrated later. We learned some painful lessons and, as it turned out, we ignored the most compelling truths.
What did we learn on September 11th? We discovered the ugly face of militant political Islam, turned outward rather than just upon itself. The 21 hijackers who stole planes and steered them into innocent targets, were immigrant Muslims educated in a fervent hatred of western liberal pluralism. Some were dopey followers, some were alpha dogs. Each was a murdering coward, too afraid of life to go on living, too afraid of pain to face foes who weren’t unarmed hostages. We see plenty of people like them still, most prominently among the ISIS gang.
What else did we learn on September 11th? We learned how easily we could be scared, and how readily we would surrender parts of our liberty, decency and self-possession, to clutch at shards of what we call safety.
What we did not learn on September 11th, or what we have chosen not yet to examine, is the central fact about the 21 hijackers. The thing they shared in common with each other, that they shared in common with almost every other terrorist before and since. The thing that made them infinitely more likely to murder innocents in the service of a dumb idea.
And that’s the thing between their legs. And the thing between their ears. Their manhood.
You see, the thing about the 9/11 terrorists that was completely obvious and true, is the thing we have ignored every day in the fifteen years since their acts of mass murder: they were all men. Following ideas fomented by men, in a cult-like faith infected with an ugly cartoon idea of manhood. Like most of the other faiths.
We dwell heavily on their religion – it has become the central debate of the modern age, that religion of theirs. And we would be fools to ignore the effect of political Islam – Islamism – on their behavior. But it would be just as foolish to ignore the central truth about the 21 killers, their enablers and their brethren: they were penis worshippers.
You see, that’s who does almost all the murdering, killing, torturing, warring, enslaving and other such activities: people with penises, who worship penises. That was true before 9/11, on 9/11 and has been true every day since.
Men committed 9/11. Sure, they were all Arabs and Muslims, but they were also all men. And if you think that’s not relevant to their behavior, ask yourself a question: why weren’t they all women? Why weren’t at least some of them women? The answer being, most of the time, that not even the bat-shit craziest and most evil women on earth, do things like 9/11. (Yes, you can think of examples of women who blow themselves up in crowds, etc – but only a few. You know this gender difference is true and you’re not enough of a fool to pretend otherwise).
Men are the ones who committed 9/11, and who have committed all the 9/11s since 9/11. Men are the problem.
If this offends you, because you are a male who doesn’t commit acts of terrorism, well…bad luck pal, you belong to the same club as them. And if you say “don’t blame men”, that is just as reasonable as saying “don’t blame Muslims” for what happened on 9/11. Perfectly reasonable, perfectly right and in the same way, quite wrong.
You see, the people who committed 9/11 did so (they told us) because their understanding of Islam called for an act of jihad. We would be fools to think their religious ideas didn’t matter. And we would be fools to think their gender didn’t matter. Because it did.
Being male in most cultures – not just Arab and Muslim cultures – means you are radically more inclined to commit acts of aggression against other people. Whether it’s brain chemistry or learned behavior, it is universal. As with rape, so with terror: not every man is a terrorist, but almost every terrorist is a man.
Men are MUCH more likely to commit an act of violence and terrorism, than Muslims are. Infinitely more likely. And if we must face the religious and ideological roots of the sadistic terror we see in the world, so too we must face the biological and other cultural roots of the same behavior.
So what? Are all men to be blamed? Shall we subject all men to “extreme vetting” or ask men to take an oath of loyalty to our values? Probably not. That would be unfair, wouldn’t it? Almost as unfair as a “complete shutdown” of the entry of men into a country.
Okay, buddy, I accept that you aren’t a terrorist. Maybe you’re a woman reading this and your boyfriend, father, husband, son, brother isn’t a terrorist either. Or a rapist. Me neither. I know that I am not responsible for 9/11, just as I am not responsible for the “20 minutes of action” committed by the Stanford Rapist, or the daily domestic slaughter we see in all our towns and cities, everywhere, every day. I did not commit those deeds and I feel no guilt about any of them.
But men are doing these things. And as a man, if I ignore the fact that my “group” (men) has a problem, it seems to me that I am, in fact, part of the problem. And so, sir, are you.
Gentlemen, we have a problem in our group. Many of our members hurt each other. Many believe that women are dogs they are allowed to have sex with. Many scream or punch their way out of frustration and confusion. Many scare the shit out of other people. Many in our group are violent. And far too many will find a faith, a creed, an excuse, to justify and sanctify their violence.
I do not propose that we hate, marginalize, imprison, humiliate or blame all men. That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? But ignoring who is doing all the killing, ignoring the thing they all have in common, seems ridiculous too – doesn’t it? Something about men makes them far more likely to be terrible people than people who aren’t men. I’m not proud of that, or ashamed of it. But it’s a FACT: the people who commit the most evil, the people most likely to in any event, have penises.
Aren’t we overdue to see this truth? Aren’t we overdue to ask what it is, in the ways we raise boys, that leaves this door open in their brains? Aren’t we overdue to examine our words, deeds, beliefs, to see where we plant the seeds of evil in the soft, innocent skulls of baby boys? And if we believe that boys and men are somehow wired to behave like this – which may be somewhat true – then aren’t we way overdue to understand that and respond to it wisely, with love and science, rather than with silence or violence?
To put it in terms that people like to use nowadays, isn’t it time to understand “the roots of violent extremism”? Do we not have a social and moral obligation to learn how these people are “radicalized” into anti-social belief systems and habituated into violence? And wouldn’t it be smart to “de-radicalize” men, before they commit acts of violence?
Or maybe we should just ban them.