Friday, September 09, 2011

Before 9/11/01

Strangely, I was somewhat emotionally & intellectually "prepared" for 9/11, so far as that was possible.  I was coming out of a couple of very rough years & had reached a little bit of routine & stability during that summer. I had two pleasurable on-going projects - therapy. I was  methodically listening through Beethoven's symphonies & string quartets, which I hadn't been able to enjoy for the 18 years I was doing radio shows at WFMU.  Free form radio  had required that I find & consume mass amounts of unfamiliar music, & the sabbaticals I'd taken from radio during that time had usually been for the purpose of stockpiling.

I'd also reread some of Paul Tillich's existential theology for dummies books, & had tackled his more difficult History of Christian Thought.   It was one those books where I had to read some paragraphs four or five times & move on hoping maybe they'd eventually make sense. I'd also read theologian Walter Wink's The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium, a fairly radical examination of the politics & agencies of domination in which Wink updated difficult (& I had previously considered quaint) concepts of angels & demons as psychic & emotional energies generated by institutions, communities, families. These energies could be positive or negative but are usually a mixture of both. Some are darkly mindless & oppressive. I'd also read a wonderful brief history of progressive religion in America, a title & author I just can't recall, too bad because I'd like to read it again. It was very refreshing to read a counter-history to the revisionist shit churned out by the religious right, which had opposed just about everything good & just & enlightened in American history. I was reading about the natural history of New Jersey, the earth underfoot, the beaches & marshes.  I was trying to ground myself in arts & ideas that had been tested & had  endured.

The upshot is that the events of 9/11, shocking as they were,  were not for me primarily political or nationalist, they were not Pearl Harbor or Fort Sumter,  which had announced themselves to wise observers long before they actually occurred.  The 9/11 attacks were the latest expression of the irrational, demonic horrors the human race has always generated, & which are in a very real sense why the highest forms of the great religions exist - to help us understand & cope, & see through & into their true nature, not to wrap us in ignorance & superstition.  Like everyone else, I knew the day would be a singular, life-changing passage. It was, even more so than the assassination of John Kennedy (which I experienced as young adolescent, & quickly put behind me).  For all the human tragedy & suffering, 9/11 was very much about symbols. I've never believed the conspirators cared how many Innocent people they murdered, 1,000 or 100,000. That was incidental to their goals. I don't believe they intended to completely knock down the Twin Towers. I believe they wanted two jagged, smoking, half-destroyed  structures in the New York skyline. I believe the complete collapse of the Towers foiled them. There was nothing left to photograph, no strong propaganda image, no destruction of symmetry.  The art of Islam is very big on symmetry, on abstract completeness. It's not difficult to imagine that a radical Muslim would consider the Twin Towers the epitome of western arrogance.  They would not like the design & meaning of the Pentagon, either. What happened to the Pentagon was more what they were after. The valor of Flight 93 passengers prevented an attack on the Capitol or White House, we're not sure. I don't intend this coldly, but  9/11 was planned as global theater. It was staged for television.  At Pearl Harbor, the Japanese wanted to sink America's Pacific carrier fleet & paralyze our war efforts for the minimum two years it would take to rebuild.  It was a practical military strategy, & it failed by luck on our part.  Al-Qaeda had no army, no navy, no air force. They did it with only 19 suicidal fanatics. That was their message to us.

Those of us fortunate not to have lost loved ones on 9/11, or been present at the scenes of death & destruction - I don't need to recall the images burned into my mind & yours, they were more traumatic in person  - were able to distant ourselves ever so slightly, by one method or another. One had to do it, or risk succumbing to madness. New York City didn't go mad.   America did.

The pity is that in  the aftermath of 9/11 America was not guided by the responses & attitudes  & spirit of New Yorkers & those who know New York City & the metropolitan area.  But that's for another post about 9/14.

Labels: ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?