Monday, September 12, 2011

I Refuse To Read 9/11 Memorial Coverage

If you're reading this right now you are doing something that I have refused to do: read any coverage or analysis of 9/11. I am boycotting the wall to wall coverage - the pull-out specials in the newspapers, the live coverage of ceremonies at ground zero (I assume there are ceremonies but I haven't been reading the coverage so I can't be sure). I'm even ignoring the critical coverage that is buried underneath all of the jingoism, mourning, and replaying of buildings billowing smoke. After all, what else can be said about 9/11? We know there has been several wars since then - putatively because of 9/11 but, in fact, argued for, threatened and planned for prior to the event. Way back when, everybody was quoting the founding documents of the Project for a New American Century, which advocated war against Iraq (a secular government with no ties - and significant animosity - towards radical Islamism). When we memorialize 9/11 as the reason for those wars we're participating in that lie.

Ah, but there I go, trying to analyze it. The truth is, it's pointless because the event has been drained of any rationality. It has become an endlessly repeated image of those burning towers and the necessary repetition of appropriate regret for the loss of life. There is literally nothing to say that won't be banal and commonplace to those who accept your particular viewpoint of the significance of the day - and which won't be utter blasphemy to those who don't.

Not many would say that I try to avoid thinking about world events and politics. Something happens somewhere in the world and I try to dig up the historical roots and uncover the social forces at play. It's a bit of an obsession at times. But this one event I will let pass - not because it's so special that I need to look away from the horror. 35,000 children die every day from preventable causes. Preventable causes. 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. Anywhere from hundreds of thousands to 1.2 million died in Iraq as a result of the war - not counting the US enforced sanctions for a decade prior to the war. Nor do I want to ignore 9/11 because it isn't important. Certainly to the 3,000 people killed, their friends and family, 9/11 was a calamitous event. But, just as obviously, it was calamitous to the people who have been killed in wars, the societies destroyed, by wars supposedly in retribution for 9/11 [re: supposedly - see Project for a New American Century above].

No, the reason I won't read about 9/11 - not a word: I caught myself reading Chomsky on the al Jazeera website and forced myself to stop - is because we have lived it for ten years. We have seen it all - and if we happen to live in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine (yes, they got blamed too - we rarely miss a chance to kick the Palestinians around), Pakistan we felt the self-righteous fury of its manufactured response. We have seen this extended to our civil liberties - eroded significantly, almost without protest. We have seen it in a more bellicose form of rhetoric from politicians and media figures and a greater ease of military response to every crisis - we now slip on our fatigues to go and bomb "evil-doers" as easily as we put on our Wellingtons when the rain comes. We all know what 9/11 means and I don't need a special edition of the New York Times or, God help me, Glenn Beck to explain it.

We don't need more memorials. They're building a "Freedom Tower" in New York with 104 floors of skyline-dominating memorial. All you have to do is say "9/11" and every person in the western world, and probably most of the eastern, southern and northern world, can't help but have the iconic image pop into their mind - even if they try to think of the CIA coup against Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973. Even in countries that have suffered much greater tragedies, which is most countries, it was probably on the front page at some point in the last week. Making this event the obsession of the entire planet is somehow deeply pathological, like a monomania as we try to find the right emotional response to an event we're expected to have an emotional response towards. Meanwhile the house is burning down. I hate that I even remembered "where I was when I heard about it" several times today; once at a film festival bbq where we were expected to stop noshing and shmoozing to pay our respects for the dead. No: no more memorials. Talk to me about 9/11 when, instead of verbiage and symbols - and guns and bombs and F-35 fighter jets that cost a ba-zillion dollars - the memorial that is being offered is a plan to eliminate poverty at home and abroad, to stop supporting dictatorships that are convenient and bombing ones that aren't (especially the democratic ones that we call dictatorships because we don't like how people voted). In the meantime, stop trying to prove how profoundly on top of the meaning of the event you are in order to sell newspapers (how much extra has the New York Times made selling it's coverage - like to the T.O. Star?) or get people to tune in. It's like Christmas Day when no matter which channel you turn to you get people singing Christmas carols or delivering sermons. Just. Stop. Already.
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