Saturday, September 11, 2004

A thought about September 11

Each generation has its own Pearl Harbor. My generation has September 11, 2001, its own day of infamy. It now appears tired and worn to ruminate on how 9/11 "has changed one's life." I have only this to offer. For years I enjoyed walking around unfettered in the Massachusetts State House, one of my favorite buildings. It is an architectural gem.

In the tranquil time before the catastrophe, you could find all kinds of access to the building including the wonderful grand stair case on Beacon Street and under the arch way from Mt. Vernon. There is a good working entrance on the side, on Bowdoin Street, nondescript but busy. It is where the workers, lobbyists and advocates would file in without much notice.

Post 9/11 everything is remarkably different. Metal detectors are the norm. State Police are more prominent. It takes more time to get through when crowds swell for public hearings particuarly at budget time. For years, I would take daily trips to the State House as part of a routine. These excursions were a metaphorical "finger through the dust" where I would pick up he scuttlebutt of the day on my way to the State House News Service. But no more; I've actually cut back on my visits to no more than twice a week. This contact with my government has been diminished. Many people have died for free and open government and something as deceptively trivial as showing up at the State House has taken on greater significance.

Ironically at the point when I would like to answer the government's call for the defense of the homeland, 9/11 has broken the bond between government and myself. Before I walk through those detectors, I recognize that government sees me not as a citizen per se but as a suspect. The open nature of a republic, where one could freely roam the halls of government, be it city or state, has come to an end. This is a big loss.



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