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.