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Thursday
Sep112008

Seven Years On

I saw a picture today of Sarah Palin next to a picture of Barack Obama, and immediately burst into tears. Most do that while seeing one or the other, depending upon their political proclivities (and let us be honest:  90% of us are voting for who we're voting for, and unless one candidate or the other shows up to the debates and eats a baby live on the air, the usual Internet sniping isn't going to make a Canadian quarter's worth of difference.)  Maybe it's because I had a total computer meltdown which immediately became a total personal meltdown, as computers, apparently, do not perform well after falling off a table directly onto the power cord port.  The screen blinked at me with a thin, disapproving green line down the right side, then went dark forevermore.

Well, there's nothing like a 9/11 anniversary to force perspective; I survive from teaching date to teaching date these days, and if the day does not appear on the syllabus, it does not exist. I knew the anniversary was coming; I saw the flags at half-mast; but it didn't register, emotionally, until the Governor and the Senator, unknowing to themselves, faced off online.

It was, in a way, similar to the sobbing reaction to the first Kentucky Derby after the attacks:  We're different, but we're still here.  There's been this terrible thing, and yet our jockeys ride on and our mint juleps continue to taste like evil with a floating side of leafy sprig.  So perhaps the hideous nastiness of this race--worse even than 2004, the election which scorched me clear of partisan political writing--is, in its battling crisis of identities, a comfortable, if ever deeper, rut.

One of the best post-9/11 comments I've ever heard was sent 'round the world on the first flight after the loss of Columbia, which was commanded by Eileen Collins.  I wish I knew who wrote it, and exactly what it said, but here's the gist:  "The people who tried to destroy us on that day want women covered and cowering in darkened rooms.  American women fly space shuttles."  And American black men are nominated for President; American female governors get the veep nod.  They stand next to men who suffered unspeakable physical and emotional hardship to not only survive, but lead; men whose heritage stretches back to our parent stem of England, who advocate for the people of Darfur and struggle with the violence on our own streets.

These four people are not perfect.  They misspeak and they've made mistakes in office.  I don't think any of us agree with or adore every single atom of either pair.  Maybe we could have done better.  But don't hate them, for to hate any one of them is to hate ourselves. You might not think that Sarah Palin or Barack Obama represents you, but chances are they sure speak for one of your neighbors.

I think that's the most American part of where we sit on September 11, 2008.  We stagger forward, divided, but every now and then, when it matters most, stopping to hold one another up.

still on the roller coaster at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com

tip the bartender

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Reader Comments (14)

You always know how to say something that really brings it all together. Thank you for this today.

September 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

Well said.

September 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Bell

Let me ask you guys something. And please I hope you do not feel offended:

Do you feel that Sept. 11 is quickly evolving into some sort of religious experience for the American people? That Ground Zero is now kind of a secular version of the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem?

You know, every anniversary of this you see the networks airing the same 9/11 documentaries & movies. For the media this is the equivalent of an Anti-Xmas! and they always seek the same thing: ratings.

You see the photos of the people visiting the site, holding candles, roses and pictures of their lost ones (sometimes in their T shirts) and I clearly see the forming of a ritual. Maybe that's an inevitable response in our species.

Another thing I haven't figured out, is why o WHY hasn't the Federal Government bought that land to make an appropriate commemorative monument? I mean, when are the government of NY, the city, the lessees of that land and the citizens get together and agree on something that leaves everyone happy. It's obvious the business men would rather have people remember the day in their own homes and let them make the building they want.

7 years was enough time to re-erect the towers... twice

September 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

MB - I love you.

September 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Beth

It's not just you, RPJ.

September 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnne from Iowa

Dearest MB I love you and I am a long time reader and commenter. I just wanted to remind you that there are those of us American women who are covered by our own choice. And I will be darned if that gets in the way of me flying a space shuttle if I wanted to!
I hope that the fetal position days become a thing of the past over time. cuteoverload.com usually gives me enough energy to get through most days. Hugs to you.

September 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbluekelebek

Bluekelebek, I'm so sorry if I offended you. The difference, of course, is that you are covered by choice-- I can't understand why anyone would have a problem with that, and I also sincerely doubt that you'd have any trouble flying a space shuttle :)

September 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

Nope, I've been your reader too long to be offended because I know how awesome you are!
I was serious about cuteoverload, did you see the baby elephant video? It's worth getting out of fetal position to look at!

September 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbluekelebek

RPJ and Anne, I will third your sentiments. Yes, 9/11 was a horrible, tragic day. I am sure that during the Revolutionary War, we also saw some horrible things done to our country by foreign forces--but we don't have memorial days for those battles.

The best way to remember 9/11 is not to leave the site as a crater of desolation, but to re-build it and let it thrive again, as we have done in the face of so many other setbacks. Where would we be today if we had simply given up to 'memorialize' Challenger and Columbia?

September 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterj.s.

[...] Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2008 by MB As previously mentioned, my computer, aged three, went away.  It went away, and it ain’t gonna come back no mo’.  So  I wrapped it in a blanket [...]

September 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDid Not Compute « Blonde

[...] Posted on Monday, September 15, 2008 by MB As previously mentioned, my computer, aged three, went away.  It went away, and it ain’t gonna come back no mo’.  So  I wrapped it in a blanket [...]

September 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDid Not Compute « Blonde

RPJ, the solemn ceremonies at Ground Zero are not weird at all, at least to me. It's like the wooden cross on the side of Jefferson Boulevard that marks the spot where my uncle died in a car crash, multiplied by 2700 or so. The fact that it's still a gaping hole doesn't help, as it's quite literally an unclosed wound in the middle of Lower Manhattan. But don't worry, the Freedom Tower will be built, and it will be magnificent.

If anyone's interested, my anniversarial thoughts are http://incite1.blogspot.com/2008/09/new-world-and-ones-left-behind.html" rel="nofollow">here, but be advised, it contains a lot of angry four-letter words. Well, okay, one specific angry four-letter word, repeated a bunch of times.

Wow Mike, those were a lot of F-us! :-)

Well, what can I say. I'm a member of a website in which these sort of ideas are discussed. And I really think most of those people are not conspiranoid zealots who live in a wood cabin and are afraid to open their mailbox... well, there might be one or two, but the rest are really nice folks ;-)

So let me ask you this: Don't you believe such arguments, even if they are preposterous, should be given the chance to compete in the market of ideas? I know that's kind of a touchy subject in a country like America, where people always need to choose a side between polarized views (i.e. creationism vs evolution).

I know the Freedom Tower will be built... eventually. What I'm not so sure of is if the final design will please most of the American public. Personally I liked better the original http://www.zaobao.com/pictorial/images1/tower211203.jpg" rel="nofollow">Libeskind design, but alas,it didn't have the approval of Almighty Trump.

September 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

RPJ: I'd be happy to continue said discussion at my place.

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