Monday, September 12, 2011


I felt two ways about our recent festival of mourning, and between those feelings I was left in a mood of dread and resignation.

On one hand, I see the opportunity for millions of people to seize the day, to return it to the only way things ever matter to us, which is in our own personal understanding of it. I did not need to be a New Yorker to have my own experience. I did not need to have friends or family in the air. It was a shock and a challenge to me. It mattered to me. It mattered to a lot of us. So talking about this can, I grant, be good.

As for the other, I felt a sense of loathing at the social obligation, at all the exhorting to "REMEMBER" and so on. I do remember. And I will, as humans do, find my memory changed in the remembrance. And I will recontextualize, and twist, as we all do, as none do more so than the remembrists. For a couple of weeks, I felt the dread build in me, the hostile preparation to be assailed by images and media spectacle, the forced remembrance--in truth, the co-optation of millions of individual recollections by a tired, sentimental, meaningless master narrative.

I was 18 when it happened, which may render my experience more or less meaningful, depending on the observer. I had a lot of conversations. Tried to be social. Tried to be intellectual about it. Posted little signs urging patience and decency. Offended some people. Talked about it.

But what the fuck to say about it now? For me, the towers are obscured by the bodies, thirty times as many if you take an estimate which even its generators think is low-ball. A quarter of a million? Half a million? After ten years, is it even possible to smell Ground Zero over the gruesome hills we have made in Iraq? Can I hear the planes strike the towers over the buzzing of horseflies and the weeping of children?

Does it still matter to me? Sure it matters. I can care about things at the same time. I've wept over shit that happened before I was born. I'm allowed. So I remember 9/11. But I feel this powerful sense of emptiness, this hole where I used to have a lot to say. Other pains are stinging me. Other horrors shake me. I've grown. I've lived. And living manages to warp your perspective in ways both helpful and sick.

I didn't hear too much about unity this year, for which I'm thankful. If you felt united, then maybe you were. But unity exists for moments and episodes, for nations as surely as for individuals.

If America is a crumbling family, 9/11 has long been our holiday celebration, and it is our fervent desire for unity that only emphasizes the distance between us. 360 or so days of separateness, resentments, and disaffection cannot be erased with one great forced display of cohesion, and one wonders how much of the sappiness is fake and how much is due to intoxication or senility.


  1. I was horrified that the government put up such a crudely done reenactment with that BS 9/11 holiday scare from Al Qaeda. My initial reaction was to think it BS, but when I read the NY Times article, I saw that they aren't even trying to sound credible anymore. It was all US officials say, and all they had to say were vague, unsourced, ominous warnings about Al Qaeda threats on our national holiday of remembrance.

    The whole thing feels like a macabre, national seance. This is not a typical propaganda model bit of flotsam. This is that cruder form of propaganda, when the state begins directly controlling the message and barely bothers to try and sound credible to any discerning audience. More of these are popping up, like the Libya thing (Compared to the efforts spent promoting democracy fighting and freedom with the Iraq and Afghan wars.) In Libya, the pretenses to democracy and freedom were barely promoted and fell away almost immediately, as headlines blared that oil multinationals were jockeying for position in a post Qaddafi Libya and interventionists crowed the mission for proving success or failure to be the primary criteria for the rightness of an action. Might prevails in this land these days with hardly an effort to garb it in ideological robes.

    In other words, their propaganda is beginning to be less of the manufacturing consent model, and more of the big dumb kind in a Soviet police state.

  2. Justin,

    If you don't look at it as propaganda, the picture is clearer.

  3. Jack, it in this case refers to what I believe is a total psy-ops job on the 10 year anniversary. Starting with the memorializing, and also now including a bs story about Al Qaeda and the spectacle of beefing up police state security and searching cars.

    Are you saying that this is less propaganda, and more of a trial run of sorts? A reminder of the threat of the police state?

  4. I just think it's part of their narrative, now. Part of the dogma of a fabricated history. Sort of like what NFL Films does. It's self referential, but I don't think its propaganda, in the specific sense.

  5. Well, propaganda can form narrative, but what you're saying, Jack, is that it's becoming passively accepted? In short, they have come to believe the narrative they once consciously and ironically peddled. Is that what you're saying?