The United States has an isolationist and insular culture, combined with a global and interventionist posture. This highly dangerous and febrile mixture, which greatly facilitates the task of the fear-mongers and chauvinists, needs a very exact and nuanced diagnosis. I don’t think that analogies from the totalitarian model, however suggestive, are sufficient.
I was watching the reading of the names of the victims of the September 11th attacks today. Something I have done pretty much every year. This year I was at work so the viewing was abbreviated, but I still got to watch some of it.
I was struck by an emotion different this time than any other year I have ever watched the proceedings. And I am not sure that emotion is the right word for it, it wasn’t just an emotion, it was a reaction that made me turn away from the proceedings and stop watching. The feeling was one of embarrassment, of being somewhere I did not belong.
Listening to names of ill fated strangers begin read off by those strangers family members. Invading their privacy. Those who mourn their dead this day need space, love, friendship, help. I felt like an outsider to it all. I watched some girl in her early 20’s read off a list of names, then speak of her father, tears in her eyes, unable to continue her short elegy. Invading her privacy, taking part in her personal grief. It felt wrong, like I didn’t belong.
There are feelings about this day that are my own. I knew one guy who died there. Well, two. The second guy I really didn’t know that well. Traveling home from work that day(I worked nights back then) on a bus on Staten Island I watched the second plane strike the Towers. I remember people coming from there hours after the event, people who know the horror of the events there much more completely then I ever will. People covered in soot, ash. Stories of friends who were hit with pieces of people who struck the ground at terminal velocity, dead on impact, alive only seconds before. Fearing many friends were dead, relieved when most everyone we could think of back alive.
Not everyone though.
The more I watched the more it felt like I was at some strangers wake, watching the mourning of someone elses dead. Watching them do that, invading that private moment, insisting myself upon people at their most vulnerable. Even with the attachment to the event that I have, I felt like I did not belong watching, taking part in it. Felt like I got punched in the gut. Resented it for a moment before I got over myself, said a short prayer for the dead.
It felt wrong to watch. So I turned away, and did not return to it.
And happily went to work, burying myself in the sweat and intense labor of the warehouse.
That’s it from here, America. G’night.