09 September 2010

Beyond the Schmaltz of 9/11


Saturday is the ninth anniversary of that fateful day where we all remember where we were and the deep anguish we felt as the world changed, blah, blah, blah.

It is amazing – such a seminal event in American history yet it has been so overhyped and over-whined that it has become almost tiresome to hear about, particularly where “the victims of 9/11" are invoked for causes or political interests which have little or nothing to do with terrorism or where others are trying to buy into a little bit of the “victim” action for themselves.

A particularly egregious example of the latter are those star-crossed “birthday victims.” [Note: I use really-improbably-but-marginally-believable stories for sarcasm, but this one is totally on the level.] Some folks whose birthday falls on 11 September are identifying themselves as additional victims because “their day” was co-opted rudely by Atta & Company. To this crowd, some of the most wretched victims of all are those soon-to-be nine-year-olds who were born on 11 September 2001, identified as such by their parents, who are sure to pass along this loathsome sorrow to these children as soon as they can really savor their ill fortune.

Enough. People who were school-age or above in 1941 remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard about Pearl Harbor. The same will apply to the WTC etc. for us. We each have a story and our private thoughts. Some of those stories are quite powerful, within ourselves, owing to our backgrounds and beliefs. I have a strong reaction to the Two Towers and all of that. Please pardon me if I don’t slather it all over the screen for you. Somehow my own reaction to what I saw on television doesn’t seem to be very startling in the broad scheme of things.

And to others similarly situated: You have your First Amendment right to bathe in your angst, blah, blah, blah. But you are boring. Very boring. Until somebody came up with something truly idiotic like “they stole my birthday,” I hadn’t heard anything new about the 2001 attacks since 2002. A particular note to those of you who believe that (1) the United States government knew the attacks were coming in advance, (2) somebody packed the WTC with exotic theoretical explosives, (3) the passenger jets shot missiles into the towers right before they plowed into them (carrying more explosives by four orders of magnitude in their fuel tanks than any missile could hold), or (4) Saddam or Satan was behind it all, listen to me: You are mentally ill. Please do not take a job as a teacher. Please do not procreate. Let's cover both the nature & nurture bases here.

The question remains what to do about the coming of 11 September every year.

There are various schools of thought which generally fall into a couple of categories. One is that it be a day of remembrance which morphs into a day of vengeance, primarily against anything Muslim, grassless or sandy. The other is that this Holy Day be elevated to some higher plane which gives lip service to anything patriotic, but promotes the One Big Happy Family of Humankind with Those Darn Ornery Terrorist Kids. The former is characterized by exhortations in the press and on Facebook to be sure to fly your flag this Saturday lest you prove yourself un-American. (Oh, and there’s tha big deal about a preacher in Florida who’s going to have a Koran barbecue.) The latter is characterized by suggestions such as that of President Obama that we have services of interfaith understanding and that we make this a national day of service, period. Once again, reason is trumped by caricature.

Taking time for remembrance in isolation doesn’t seem to be of great value, although I know lots of people disagree with me there. Remembrance, I believe, should be for the living, to fulfill our own sense of obligation and honor and to provide inspiration and instruction for our future behavior. If we become so emotional or so irrational that we can make no sense of what we’re supposed to be remembering, there is little use in the remembrance. Similarly, service with “an attitude of gratitude” for what we have is an important part of our society. We lament, I lament for that matter that self-interest fuels human activity more than it ever has. However, without that spirit of cheerful service, life would be pretty poor in this world. And I can add little to the “brotherhood of humanity” idea other than to say that simply turning the other cheek from genuine harm is pretty stupid.

By the way, if the preacher wants to burn the Koran, that’s pretty boring too. Some symbolic speech is stupid speech, but the Constitution does not limit rights to people who refrain from stupid things. My thought is that the Reverend Salamander is a putz and should be ignored. Were he burning a Bible, I’d say the same thing, even though I’m a Christian. The printed material is not the person of Deity. On the other hand, I get really ripped when someone disrespects the flag. I know this is inconsistent. Read your Emerson and welcome to my life.

Come Saturday, I will remember and I will (I hope) continue to be of cheerful service. For myself, I will particularly remember the emergency services people who ran toward the danger rather than away from it. I will remember two people, both volunteer EMT’s from Long Island, one a lawyer and one a messenger and Boy Scout leader, who were working in Manhattan that day. They went to the scene, grabbed trauma packs off fire engines and went into the towers. Greater love . . .

The rest of it is just noise.

Perhaps I will ritualistically burn a few of my Archie comic books just to get into the spirit of things. No doubt the Jughead Crew will throw a fatwa on me.

The Other Hazard

This morning's Dominion-Post (the Morgantown, West Virginia, newspaper) ran an Associated Press story on the front page with the headline “Doctors See Eye Hazard in Laser Pointers.” Wait a minute, I smell a small contest! A fine book from the Three Parsec Bookshelf® to the first person who can identify the other hazard of using a laser pointer. Brother Maccheu is ineligible, as we got a real hoot about this at coffee this morning.

A Thought for the Day:

When you ask for my advice, listen for at least 60 seconds before you tell me I’m wrong. After all, you’re the one who asked.

Pippa passes.

1 comment:

Rosary said...

everyone knows a laser pointer can bring down an airplane :-)

I tend to agree with you on 9/11. Yes, it was a horrible event; yes, people died. But it's time to move on, and time to stop acting like every one was a victim. Personally, the Murrah building attack hold more importance to me, but then I was in Oklahoma at the time. I might feel differently if in NYC--

I also find myself more offended by burning a Koran (or any holy book), than I do by burning a flag. Ironic, since I'm very irreligious, but I find burning a religious icon of any sort more insulting than burning a political one--comme ci, comme ca