Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Anniversary Waltz

already we're getting the inevitable overkill on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  how could it be otherwise? 9/11 is certainly the 'defining moment' of the new millenium in america.  i would like to see that grim event remembered and mourned with dignity.  i would hope that somewhere in the blitz of the videos, the interviews, the constant shots of the president at the time--his worthy as well as unworthy moments--i would hope in the midst of this that the media do what they conspicuously neglected, or refused, to do back then, and since: to analyze the role america itself has played in the hatred that so much of the mideast had and still has for the US.  this does not imply minimizing the unforgiveable act itself, or the innocence of it victims.

but we have tended to act as though there is a quantifiable amount of blame, and any admission that there have been reasons for the hate is to take X pounds of blame away from the attackers and land it  on america.  one of my strongest memories in the days and weeks after the attack was of the absence of this discussion on television news and talk shows. ironically, the best display of multiple views of the events came on a nighttime series drama, not a news or discussion show.  The series, was 'family law,' and the plot involved the wife of an american muslim citizen from a mideast country who has been arrested as a suspected terrorist.  his original lawyer has been useless; his family can't communicate with him, and his wife is frantic.  the members of the law firm have a meeting to discuss the case, and, consistent with each of their personalities, they have different reasons for different feelings. one lawyer, raising her grandchild, wants nothing to do with it.  in the phrase that had already begun to be used and would end up as a sort of mantra, she argues that '9/11 has changed everything.' she is not being specious: her granddaughter had been sent home from kindergarten because an envelope filled with a mysterious white powder was found in the school.  the sleazy opportunist wants to take the case because whatever the truth is, it will get the firm great press.  the main character wants to take the case on a civil liberties basis: someone accused of a crime, however heinous the crime and however guilty the person appears to be, has the right to trial.

finally, and most startlingly, the most leftwing character [and yes, there was one] also wants to take the case--not only because of the right to trial but because it will bring pubic awareness of the longstanding oppression of middle-eastern countries  by western colonialists.  while the news brought us our president pontificating about the motive for the attacks being jealousy of 'america's freedoms,' we were at least briefly hearing, on this one place, that the motives, though not the action, had something to do with years of US government policy.

we have rarely heard it since.  there is a thin line between patriotism and xenophobia, and the notion that we are the best country in the whole world, god's special favorite, tends to go unquestioned. that may be one of the few things that 9/11 didn't change in our culture.

nor did it change the anger of many people in the mideast toward america.   the wars we are fighting have brought, at the very least, as much fury and fear as gratitude.

and so i am afraid of next sunday.  i am afraid of two possibilities.  one is the possibility i'm sure that many americans fear: that al queda or its clones might have been gearing up for a reenactment of the terrorist attacks.

equally, i am afraid of violence coming from euro-americans against muslims in america, or anyone they think is a muslim [the night after 9/11, rocks were thrown through the windows of a Sikh Indian family next door to me, and their walls were spraypainted 'fuck turban heads.'  the family stood outside the house, the father clutching his small son and trying to figure out what had happened.] i am afraid for the lives of innocent dark-skinned people at the hands of american terrorists as brutal as the 9/11 attackers.  terrorists for jesus, or for their vision of patriotism, are as frightening and as dangerous as terrorists for allah.

i hope my fears turn out to be foolish: there are some things one wants to be wrong about.  but i will be very glad when it's 9/12 and this hellish anniversary is over.  i will be gladder still if amidst all the reliving of the horror ten years ago, there is some small effort to understand the complex mixture of elements that went into its creation, in the hope that truth-seeking will help us find ways beyond subway slogans about seeing something and saying something to challenge a world view in which such  evils can occur, and feed each other.

1 comment:

karen lindsey said...

it's good to be wrong!!!