Immediately after September 11, I was so struck by the predominant collective response: the ubiquitous display of flags everywhere you looked; the knee-jerk “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant whenever the tragedies were invoked; the widespread desire for retributive justice, wherever, however possible.
Now eleven years later, even after all that’s happened since, I’m just so saddened that nationalistic displays seem to be the only way we know how to commemorate our dead. Maybe I’m naive, but it’s difficult for me to accept that we still haven’t found a healthier national outlet for our grief. Call me naive, but I was genuinely surprised – and quite honestly mortified – that the loudest cheers at the DNC last week (always accompanied by the still ubiquitous “U-S-A! U-S-A!”) were saved for references to 9/11 and the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
If you found yourself disturbed as well, I highly recommend that you read this recent piece by Glenn Greenwald, who sorrowfully identifies all that was wrong with the bloodlust on unabashed display during the DNC:
Americans once found national purpose – justification for their belief in their own exceptionalism – from inventing new life-improving technologies, or putting a man on the moon, or advancing the cause of equality, or vanquishing the mighty Nazi military machine, or enshrining unparalleled protections for core liberties in the constitution. Now, many Americans find it in the heroic ability to hunt someone down who is in hiding, pummel his skull full of bullets even as he lay dying on the ground, and then dump his corpse into the ocean…
The premise seems to be that – aside from this specific corpse and the others the president has piled up – there is little else for ordinary Americans to celebrate now when it comes to the search for nationalistic achievement, purpose and greatness among their political leadership. That this dark premise appears valid is what is most disturbing of all.
In the meantime, for me the most moving, compassionate and morally honest tribute to the 9/11 fallen – and all who have fallen by our hands since – is this spoken word piece by Palestinian-American Suheir Hammad (above) entitled “First Writing Since.”
i cried when i saw those buildings collapse on themselves like a broken
heart. i have never owned pain that needs to spread like that.
there is no poetry in this. there are causes and effects. there are
symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, and information we will
never know. there is death here, and there are promises of more.
there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting,
but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will
shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the
rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.