I don’t like this day, and I doubt I ever will.
The first one, the original 9/11, scared the fuck out of me. Scared, like when I was in the Northridge earthquake, trapped in a small dark room, shaken like the inside a paint-shaker, and all to the sound of four freight trains rolling right over your head. If you have ever been really close to something VERY heavy, and moving fast (freight trains are the worst I have experienced) if gives off a subsonic that is difficult to describe, but will set the small hairs on the back of your neck alight because your body knows that if you make one tiny mistake, you are fucking toast. That kind of scary. The kind that makes you mind go OMFG! and you balls suck up into your crotch.
On the first 9/11 we woke up to NPR. I think my alarm went off at 6:00 back then, but I don’t recall. We had just moved into our first house two months before, and had a baby boy three months old. In short we were already stupid with fear, and way over our heads. The slow painful tsunami of parenthood had not quite peaked on the beach of our single lives, but already we were soaked, and the beach was covered in junk. So when the radio came on with the news, I almost didn’t believe it. “Big fire in the World Trade Center,” it said, but the boy was still asleep, and the TV still had regular analog stations, so I wandered into the living-room and turned the set on. About a minute later Teri must have heard the panic in my voice when I said, “honey!” We spent the rest of that morning alternating between sitting on the couch glued to the tv, or calling friends and family, and pacing back and forth on the phone.
Together we watched that first fire with mild fear, but mostly with dumbfounded ignorance. We didn’t know the cause (although it you go back now and look there is an obvious airplane shaped hole in the building) as the news reporters were being good cautious citizens, reporting only what they knew or could plainly see. The truth at that moment was still wrapped in euphemisms like “sources say” and “it has been reported”, and my personal favorite,”unconfirmed reports”. The great subtext of that day was yet to unfold.
So we watched a sky-scraper fire, nothing more. And we were having thoughts like, “oh, those poor fucks,” for the people trapped on the top part of the building. Then we got that collective “surprise!” moment when that second airplane zoomed right into frame of the camera, and smacked into the other tower with a puff of an explosion and a rain of fiery debris. It was as if in mid cut another director had taken over our collective movie, in this case a chick flick, and decided to make it a horror movie instead. Even the newspeople were thinking WTF! at that one, it was such a punch to the mental gut. I distinctly remember how sick-to-my-stomach it made me feel. It was bizarre, surreal. Like having a favorite 5 year-old niece or nephew jump up and say “surprise,” which you think is cute until you look into the closet they are pointing towards and see they have butchered your favorite cat, and smeared its bloody entrails all over the inside. It was that kind of surreal. Your first reaction is to think, “oh, um, okay,” and your second reaction is to puke.
But the day wasn’t over yet. The third surprise of the morning was when the second tower collapsed on itself. By then I was already having a discussion in the back of my head about high-temperature fires and modern sky-scraper construction, so I cannot say the collapse was a surprise to me. It was more like an “oh, of course!” Only this “of course” was punctuated by the deaths of thousands of people.
It was the collapse of the second tower that made me say out loud, “Damn. I’m glad I’m too old to be drafted because this must mean war.” I didn’t know who was behind this, but I knew then we would be going to war. It was that simple.
That was also when my balls tried to suck themselves up into by abdomen. Yep, scared.
You know, I think there should be an international limit on the number of OMFG!s on can experience on one day. After the first couple, the brain just goes numb, and then stays that way for a long time. Just like after being in the Northridge paint-shaker. One can only experience so much terror, and then the brain overloads. Perhaps this was Ossama Bin-Laden’s only mistake on that day. He could have gotten a much more dramatic effect if he had spread the four attacks over two different days, about two months apart. That would have been much more dramatic theater. I can only thank god he didn’t.
Anyway, there is another part to 9/11. Not the stuff that happened on that day, but the stuff that happened because of that day. And it is this stuff, the political and social repercussions to that day, that REALLY PISSES ME OFF!!! It pisses me off so much that if I start to think about it for any length of time the rage starts to build, and I swear my eye starts to twitch. If Bin Laden may have made a mistake or two that day, by way of contrast our response was nothing but one mistake after another. With ten years of hindsight it is hard to believe how absolutely mind numbingly stupid we became. We did everything Bin Laden asked for, and wrapped it up for him like a Christmas present.
- Setting the situation up like it was an act of war, not a crime.
- Acting as if it was a war against Islam instead of a political war.
- Treating Bin Laden as if he was some “master villain” instead of as a religious lunatic hermit, high on crack, and living in a cave.
- For fuck’s sake, we even invaded Iraq over this. I mean, how stupid do you have to be?
Its like we got stung by a wasp, and our solution was to seek out every wasp nest we could find, smack them once with a stick, and then stand there and laugh. Of course if you act that stupid you’re going to get stung. I mean really, WTF? The English and the French both have these wonderful long histories of kicking the ant-hill that is the middle east and north Africa, and then getting covered in ant bites. Why the fuck did we feel the need to do the same thing all over again? Good Christ almighty, how dumb can one nation be? We’re supposed to learn from other nation’s mistakes, not do them over again for our own. Really, this is shit we could happily let someone else own. But we didn’t.
So 10 years on…
- We are not any safer, and we are appreciably less free.
- We have paid for the blood of our thousands spilled on that day, with the deaths of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Not to count hundreds of thousands of people that were displaced by out actions, made poorer by our wars, or lost loved ones and/or property for being in the unlucky position of being under the boot when our foot came down.
- We have spent thousands of our precious lives and trillions of our national treasure.
- We contributed almost nothing to democratizing the middle east. The leaders we did support now appear to be autocratic thugs, many of which have been overthrown by their own people. And the two places we did invade are not significantly freer then before we invaded.
- The rest of the world (you know, the guys we do business with) thinks we’re either bullies or a bunch of newbs (or both!).
So good job, us. Get out your flags and wave, because Yay, We Did It! Weee.
The sad part is, I think the only reason we are not doing more in the middle east right now is simply because we are broke. The collective conscious of our country still wants to cry and scream like a baby, pitching a fit, and stomping on every shadow. We haven’t learned that there is no “getting over” this day. There is no single bad guy to hunt down and kill like in a movie. There will be no final chase scene, and there will be no victory party when the credits roll. In fact, when the credits do roll we are going to see that we were not the protagonist at all, like we thought we were. No, in this film, in this reality, we’re playing the roll of the antagonist. That’s right, we’re playing the bad guys, we’re the ones with the black hats.
I say its time we turned in those black hats, and our sacred flags, for something much more appropriate; ashes and sack-cloth. Folks, we fucked up, and now its time we manned up and admitted it. I don’t think for a minute we were responsible for that terrible tragedy of 9/11, but we are certainly responsible for everything we did afterwards in response.
So today we put up our flag in honor of those fallen on this day 10 years ago, and to honor those fallen who bravely fought in the repercussions to the events of that terrible day. These were good folks, most of them great American citizens, and innocent, as near as I can tell, from any wrong doing. If there is any guilt in any of them, I say we let them take it up with their maker. I’m good with that. We also lit a few candles as a sign of our intent to peaceably remember this day, and what it means. Its not a parade, and we’re not waving the flag or watching some stupid crap on television. Really, I’ve cried enough, I don’t need to do more. There is no victory to this day, and by this point I doubt there will ever be. We had a chance for greatness, and we blew it. All that is left is for the rest of us to “get” that. For many Americans I doubt that day will ever come. Then again, I never thought I would see a black man elected to the White House, so I have to admit my powers of prognostication are not particularly impressive.
And… that is why I don’t like this day. I doubt I ever will.