Friday, September 11, 2009

Sept. 11th & Its Discontents

Eight years ago today, terrorists hijacked a series of aircraft and flew them into New York's World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Yes, this is That Day, and elements of our mass media never fail to make it a point to wallow in the event. "Our top story tonight: The people killed by terrorists 8 years ago are still dead." The History Channel, particularly egregious, has offered a veritable misery-fest dedicated to reliving the event, second by second, over and over again, all day long.

I'm rather tired of this sort of thing. Truth be told, I've been rather tired of it since not long after the actual event occurred. At some point, one simply wants to say "get over it, people." Obviously, that's an emotional response. 9/11 is very good at eliciting those. Wearying under the lash of 9/11 fatigue in the years immediately following the attacks, I wrote a short piece putting the event in context, comparing the number of deaths to any number of things that kill us in far greater numbers and that are much bigger problems but that we don't choose to dwell upon, either with fanfare or with anything else, much less direct the insane amount of resources to combating. I've written a few versions of it over the years--I drag it out every so often, rework it and repost it in various places. In the early years after the event, it probably drew more negative responses than anything I've ever written. In more recent years though, it has seemed to get a more balanced response. People have come to see the logic of it. The logic hasn't changed, mind you--it's as unassailable now as when I originally wrote it. It's just that distance seems to be allowing people to come to their senses about it, to face that logic and not react so emotionally.

...which was sort of the point of the piece in the first place.

I don't want to seem unkind or uncaring. 9/11 was a terrible moment. There's still unfinished business related to it as well. Thanks to George Bush's incompetence, his decision to divert available resources to a dead end in Iraq and his eventually falling into what looked like a comfortable, mutually beneficial love affair with al Qaida, we still don't have the head of the bastard bin Laden, who masterminded the attack. We aren't going to get it by reliving the attack itself either. I just don't see any point in that particular exercise, and that's all the many "remembrances" of it that have come to us through our media do. They have no higher aim. They accomplish nothing more. We need to move beyond that.

The difficulty in moving beyond it begins with the existence of so much footage of it. Giving television people good footage is like giving them the opportunity to say "penis" on the air--they're all over it. It's also something that can be milked as a simple, emotional "human interest" story, which the corporate press always prefers to serious news of any complexity. It's also a fact that those in the Bush administration worked tirelessly to keep the event as close to an open wound in the public consciousness as possible, so they could hitch their political fortunes to it and milk it for every vote it was worth.

These--the things that have kept it alive--are also some of the best reasons this constant "wallow in 9/11" mill needs to stop. Don't forget what's happened, but stop dwelling upon it. Let the dead rest.


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