9/11/2002: One nation, under Arbitron
"I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."
Even at two weeks out from the actual anniversary, the headlines gathering like storm clouds on news shows and websites still make me cringe and simmer with anger. "The day that changed the world." "The Unthinkable." "Day of Terror."
On the eleventh day of September, 2001, I sat at my computer, stunned beyond measure, and wrote:
The knowledge that you are watching someone die is horrifying, awful. Imagine multiplying that single incident by hundreds, thousands, and you understand my horror and anguish as I watched the towers fall like so many glass cards. — An accounting of the day
Death does not need to be acknowledged by wailing or pageantry. Its existence is enough. We understand the fragility and beauty of life only when we understand both the ease and the permanence of its extinguishment. Like color, it is most vividly appreciated when seen in juxtaposition with its opposite.
As we come up on the anniversary of the tragedy (and make no mistake, a tragedy it was), it's time for the American public to make a decision about the way they will honor memories still too raw to forget.
Our national television networks plan to take most of the day away from regular programming to, undoubtedly, broadcast hours upon hours of sob-worthy human interest stories on survivor and victim alike. Many cable broadcast channels have decided that their normal (albeit specialized) programming is both inappropriate and insulting to what is rapidly turning into an unofficial but national day of mourning, and plan to black out their broadcasts and do nothing but scroll the names of the victims.
The thought of the American public spending yet another day glued to their televisions, especially on this anniversary, sickens me. Those who point to the country I live with blaming fingers say that we are obsessed with our own issues, our own wants, our own needs, and will steamroll over the rest of the world until our needs and our wants are fulfilled.
That statement is not without merit. Not without a lot of merit.
So on the eleventh of September, many of us are going to sit inside our buildings and, instead of thinking seriously about the cause of the tragedy, will only mourn the result. I find myself wondering if any American news organization will have the chutzpah to look past the immediacy of the tragedy, to look at the tangled sociopolitical problems that culminated in the felling of two enormous buildings and the deaths of thousands.
I wish these networks would have the courage to do justice to the irrevocable loss of thousands of people by seriously exploring the causes of the tragedy, but at heart I know they do not. While the zealous collective fire of vengeance of last September and October has thankfully—finally—blessedly gone from this nation, our collective psyche still shimmers with heat and anger.
It is this residual heat that the networks plan to exploit, with gut-wrenching tales sandwiched between patriotic music and images: All hail the firefighters, brave and strong. Now let's send those assholes who did this straight to hell.
I'm already nauseous by the coverage now, and I've still got two weeks to go before this noxious tsunami of emotional remembrance swallows the country. I can't help but feel that the networks are going to try to out-patriotize and out-bombast their competitors because they feel it is the Right Thing To Do (one nation, under Arbitron, with people meters and commercials for all).
Death is the original unsolvable puzzle. Once life, and peace, and innocence, are undone, the thing cannot be mended. Even more death—justice though it may be, and richly deserved it may be—will not bring back our innocence—or the dead. —An accounting of the day
I wish there was a way to communicate to this country what seems so obvious to me:
Leave your television off on the eleventh of September. Leave the families of the victims to grieve in peace. Grief is a wrenching enough process without having it made the focus of a national spectacle. Let those who have lost, mourn their loved ones privately.
Remember that this event did not occur in a vacuum. One degree or another of national grief is to be expected, but to have a day of mourning without using the day to honestly examine the history leading up to the attacks is a waste of tears. Yes, we were attacked. Yes, it was wrong. But settling blame without examining our nation's past for mistake and fault is to set ourselves up for more days of tragedy in the years yet to come.
By all means, mourn for those lost in the attacks. But don't mourn blindly.