Reliving 9/11 in all the wrong ways

politics, society

Film of people running and screaming away from the debris cloud from the World Trade Center is particularly upsetting to young people, he said.

– Psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz, hired by NBC to explain the obvious to them

For those of you who still watch TV, get ready for the screams and endless bouts of chilling music, horrific video clips, and solemn newscasters pandering to self-absorbed Americans and the all-important network ratings in the coming weeks.

That’s right, it’s getting close to the 9/11 anniversary. And while I may seem horribly callous and politically incorrect, I’m disgusted by our country’s self-obsession, sensationalist news coverage, and generally complete obliviousness to the fact that far more people die awful deaths in other ways and other countries… even when there aren’t backgrounds that make for such ‘compelling’ TV coverage.

Without meaning any disrespect towards those who died in the Twin Towers, I can’t think of anything positive in all the “One Year Later” coverage. I just hope none of our nations’ songwriters take it upon themselves to write new ballads for the occasion. Nor am I eager to see new variations on those obnoxious American-flag-as-shopping-basket signs in store windows; “America — STILL open for business!”? Ack.

A Canadian friend last night expressed sympathy to me about 9/11, but then admitted, “I had hoped that at least one positive thing would be that you guys [Americans] would be humbled a bit. But just the opposite happened.”

Indeed.

When folks from other countries suffer from an attack, whether natural (flood) or ‘man-made’, they typically clean things up, mourn, and then get on with their lives. Better yet, they seem to often look inward to understand, prepare, and prevent.

But instead, we replayed the tragedy again and again and again on TV, our Chief urged us to be good Barbies and Kens (“go shopping!”), rotation of patriotic songs on the airwaves increased a bazillion percent, and even our largely tone-deaf legislators decided to get yet less work done by singing “God Bless America” on the steps of Congress.

Solidarity is one thing. Grandstanding soundbites, however, are a different beast altogether.

We’ve demonstrated our knack for self-pity and self-aggrandizement, but avoided asking ourselves pertinent questions and making tough decisions, trapped in between the ineffectual and bleating one-note far-leftists (“It’s all our fault! Let’s come up with new anti-war chants!”) and the scarily militant rightist hawks (“Hey, we kicked some Afghanistani butt! Iraq, here we come!”)

In the coming 9/11-one-year-later marathons, we’ll get tearful interviews with survivors, more worship of brave firemen, and sternly proud clips of our politicians in action. Humanizing? Perhaps. Informing? No.

So with docudramas edging out thoughtful introspection, we’re relegated to passive recipients of patriotic pablum and temporarily stirring heroism. Rather than being enabled or encouraged to understand history, we are instead condemned to repeat it. And that is the most tragic of all.

1 comment… add one
  • Matt Hendrickson Aug 26, 2002

    Were we humbled after 9/11? It’s hard to say. Considering the fact that our airline traffic was ground to a halt, the citizenry is at a more heightened state of awareness/concern, and that we have had economic repercussions that have lasted to today, I think its safe to say we have been humbled.

    And the sudden surge of psuedo-patriotism? Well, I’ll agree with Adam on the disgust of trying to capitalize on the 9/11 attacks and the like. But I think the signs on the stores are simply people taking pride in the place they live in. We as Americans tend to live in complacency, even to the point where we become apathetic to America. But the attack, if anything, has reminded us that this is still a good country to live in, despite all our faults. I think those signs remind us of that. But when people try to make a profit out of others’ pain and loss, that’s maddening.

    If anything, the 9/11 attack has made people realize there is evil forces out to get us and that we have to remain vigilant against those who would try to do harm. However, if history has taught us anything, that can lead to some pretty unsavory actions taking place in the name of “national security”, including increased government action and restriction of freedoms.

    Ben Franklin said it best, “Those who are willing to sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” Keep positive, America. But don’t let fear and bigotry bring us down to the level of Osama bin Laden.

What do you think?