20 years in the toilet

So, my thoughts on the past 20 years of life in America…

First off I wish to mention that I in no way am unaware or intending to downplay the tragic losses of life that occurred as the result of the September 11, 2001 attack on New York City. It’s just unfortunate that this was allowed to negatively affect so many more lives than necessary.

That being said…

This is just a weird set of disjointed observations I felt like putting in writing so I could get them off my mind and go back to thinking about cats and video feedback.

A little over 20 years ago I was just starting college in Miami while living with my family. There were a few issues going on with them at the time but nothing too terrible… yet. There was kind of a track record with my mother though of trying to discourage me from doing pretty much anything in terms of personal growth and advancement by going to great lengths of explaining how I was going to fail at it. Ignoring this, I had just kinda started my career in the broadcasting field by joining the campus radio station as an engineer and on-air host.

The morning of September 11, I was getting ready to go to my first class when the first plane hit. I don’t even remember what I thought of it at the time, it still looked to me like a freak accident. At some point between when I left and got to the campus, the second plane hit. The buses were still running normally at that time. The chemistry lab I was there for was cancelled and we were all told to wait for further instructions. I remember turning on a handheld radio I had and finding that there was some really indistinct net going on one of the repeaters with some hams talking about whether they would be needed for emergency operations. I think at the time we had Nextel phones, whatever I had, I remember just looking at it and seeing it show “System Busy”.

It was about to become horribly clear that nobody knew what to do, just that there was some vague threat perceived, but… who knows.

Soon afterwards came the announcement that the college was shutting down and we were all to leave the campus immediately. For about the first five minutes, students were able to leave with their cars. After that, campus security blocked all exits from the parking areas and made everyone else leave on foot. I went to the bus stop since that was still open, but the buses weren’t picking up any passengers – they’d just pull in, kick everyone out, and take off empty. Eventually my lab partner drove by and told me to get in the car with him since we lived fairly close by each other and he’d take us home.

I forget what kind of car he had… well, it was his sister’s car, and had about 80 miles on it. It was about to have the recommended break-in procedures violated severely.

As we took off into the streets of Kendall, the police kept methodically showing up at each of the major intersections behind us and completely blocking the roads. He accelerated to a calm 90 mph or so upon noticing this and we made it to my house. Later when the school reopened I found out that he had to park and walk several miles home because he didn’t make it past the road closures in time. This seemed to be a pretty common theme, I’d hear stories everywhere about how people were just stranded somewhere for days. When the roads did reopen, most large vehicles were being stopped and searched, because now everything was a Potential Threat. I mean, how would you know if that truck that’s taking several tons of food to supermarkets isn’t actually a giant brick of fertilizer and fuel oil? We Just Have To Keep You Safe, You Know—

The first couple of days after this were really odd. Fox News and CNN were required to be blasting at all times at home so we’d know if something important happened, though nothing happened except for the same 3 minutes of tape rolling on an endless loop with various voiceover and commentary. There was some really pathetic candlelight vigil my parents had us all go to where we all walked around this one large block holding candles and paper American flags as some “patriotic music” blasted from a few houses on the block.

Toxic patriotism.

Soon followed by Terror Capitalism.

It felt really odd going back to school after this. The campus reopened for classes, but student activities remained suspended, and one of my classes was cancelled as the professor was called to active duty in the military somewhere. Some of the staff at the radio station and a lot of other students were called to active duty in the following days. I never saw any of them again. Another one of my classes was not exactly cancelled, but the professor briefly mentioned having gotten a great new job with General Dynamics, then suddenly vanished and turned in F’s for all of us on the way out. This could not be appealed because the state rules did not provide for any procedure other than appealing the grade with the instructor themselves, and if they were gone that was it. We were all warned via the school newspaper that the available courses would degrade over the next couple years and some of the degree programs will now be dead-end and impossible to complete. They would, however, continue to admit new students to the dead-end programs, in hopes that they could restore the missing courses later. Soon afterwards, the school newspaper was cancelled and the faculty advisor laid off.

I kept trying to complete my program as it was one of the few that hadn’t been run into the ground yet.

My family and a lot of my neighbors started getting weirdly xenophobic. My mom started spending hours on end scouring really dodgy blogs for any mention of al-Qaeda and forming elaborate theories of their business partnerships and future plans. She began forcing me to enact various preparations for this, with no actual resources to do so. Yes, sure, today we’re preparing the household to be able to run a computer off grid without a generator for an entire week. I’ll get right on that, except I couldn’t…. but even if it was impossible I still had to spend all the time and effort on it as if I had the entire pallet of batteries right there or whatever. This would later evolve into being required to maintain the computers for a home based business with whatever I could scavenge but allowing no downtime and this being required to be my number one priority in life. It did help me learn how to maintain really unsupported weird shit, but also left me a complete wreck of anxiety and depression to this day, so I don’t think it was worth it as an educational experience.

Most of American society got horribly xenophobic.

So, you know how I mentioned Terror Capitalism? Oh boy has it been in full swing for a while now. The first effect was that it was determined that allowing people to travel by air was now too dangerous, because POTENTIAL TARGET!!! But wait, we can make it safer by ……. invasive data collection and aggregation on everyone, followed by generating a threat index on everyone based on completely opaque methods with no oversight or procedure for appeal…. and we had the No Fly Lists.

Then there were the proposals that the No Fly lists also prevent someone from traveling between states, or even between cities. Without getting too far into details on this (as I’m not sure if all of that infrastructure’s been dumped yet) my family’s behavior got me on that for a while.

It was apparently considered suspicious in this era that I continued pursuing an education in electrical engineering. We’d progressed to being a society where advanced technical knowledge of things that could be related to vital infrastructure are now apparently on a need-to-know basis. Soon the H1B visa program would be used to bring in foreign workers for jobs in these fields because America just entirely gave up on education.

Did I mention Jeb! Bush’s disastrous education policies were now the basis for national education policy? Yeah, that happened. Education at the primary and secondary level was replaced with standardized testing and standardized test prep. This didn’t affect postsecondary (college/university level) as those were simply gutted and asset stripped instead.

Somehow we all got by, for the most part. It was mostly impossible to continue trying to go for a degree in engineering so I started looking at just entering the job market. No entry level existed into anything outside of retail and foodservice, which might have just been a result of South Florida sucking total dong. The companies there only recruited from outside of the area.

Corporations started getting cheaper and moved their headquarters and production out of the US.

Maintenance of public infrastructure stopped. The response to things like hurricanes and other natural disasters was now the same exact “shut everything down and shelter in place, whether you’re ready to or not” policy that we saw on September 11.

We still were kind of getting by.

The banks crashed.

Hurricanes came and went, recovery efforts barely arrived. People were expected to survive for weeks on a few items provided by a company that normally services vending machines.

People turned on each other even worse. I saw the worst brought out in everyone just as I left South Florida. I don’t want to ever go back.

I eventually wound up in a series of jobs that were horribly abusive, but It’s Okay Because They’re Nonprofit. They seemed to be pretty distanced from Terror Capitalism but were definitely all on board with the Toxic Patriotism.

Toxic Patriotism was even used to keep people risking their lives in the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t even want to get into that.

And now we’re back to Terror Capitalism, as the US handed Afghanistan right back to the Taliban, and we keep both trying to depend on China as an industrial provider of *everything* but are also apparently grooming them as a war opponent. Gotta keep that military-industrial complex running, or at least, what we can still keep running of it. I don’t know. I’m so done with this shit.

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