Ten years ago at this time, I was sitting in my HON 150 course. HON 150 was “Introduction to Critical Inquiry” and it taught me how to watch the news with questions. That was a good skill to have for 9/11. It was probably my second or third week of college ever, and I remember weeping in class when I tried to say something about it. I remember my teachers looked at me with this strange mixture of pity and judgement and confusion.
I was 20, I would turn 21 in about 7 weeks.
I’d heard the news on the radio–back when people still had radios and cassette players in their cars–on the way to class. I remember kind of rapidly experiencing shock, then disbelief, then bewilderment.
Later that day, my roommate Steve and I sat transfixed in front of our inherited tube TV and watched the news, the replays of the footage, the crazy newscaster rhetoric.
I remember wondering whether I should go to my job at the Olive Garden later, and when I did being totally freaked out that people actually went out to dinner.
Fast Forward 10 years:
Today, things between Brad and I are tense for reasons that are unclear to me. We’re having his folks over for dinner later, and I am looking forward to the warmth and family feeling that comes from consuming piles of carbs and one or two obligatory vegetables with people to whom I am not really, but sort of, related to.
I wrote a piece for the newspaper about a famous Indian tabla player, Sandip Burman. I didn’t actually get to speak with Mr. Burman, but I spoke with his harmonica player. Mr. Burman is feeling unwell, and is probably worn out from his road schedule. He was set to cross the Canadian border about an hour ago. I wonder if they scanned his tabla and sitar for bombs. He must be a terrorist, after all. He’s Indian. And brown.
It didn’t occur to me until a few days ago that this would be the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It’s not something I thought about on New Years. I’m kind of embarrassed about how unproductively we’ve handled 9/11 as a nation. To me, it seems like an occasion to gather awareness, sensitivity to other cultures and their customs. But it seems like all we’ve done is put government sanctioned racism in place, and amped up a bunch of unproductive, ignorant rhetoric that has fueled domestic political movements (ahem Tea Party) that glorify the exact same unexamined, ideological absolutism that bore those attacks.
It doesn’t seem like a swell reason to launch a war, responding to hate and violence with hate and violence. It’s kind of like those people who cheered the death penalty the other day. I wonder how people who’re both pro life and pro death penalty reconcile that for themselves.
I have a child who is 6, and yesterday, when I was weeping in the car while I listened to some of the stories from 9/11 Story Corps on NPR, I had to explain to her about how a few crazy, mean people flew some planes into buildings because they don’t like Americans or our religion. And how a lot of people got hurt really badly or died, and how it is still very sad.
I watched an episode of Law & Order, Criminal Intent that had that Rider Strong (baby faced bad influence from Boy Meets World) playing a convert to Islam, religiously fueled terrorist who intended to put off a pair of suicide bombs with some Eastern counterparts. There was a lot of simple silliness and ignorance in the episode, but I reminded myself that the show was probably made less than a year after the 9/11/01 attacks. Brad was disgusted. I was, too. But I’m all soft in the middle now.
Ten years ago, I would’ve been so pissed about that episode that I probably would’ve written off the show forever. I certainly wouldn’t have entertained any sympathy or finished watching the show.
Now, I think that a harried writer was probably under fire to produce anther of the same story, but with some ratings-growing political elements to acknowledge the off-kilter sense we all had of the world. I believe that the ridiculousness of the kind of television that gets made, and the poor writing that sometimes slips by, is symptomatic of something bigger that’s wrong with us as a culture.
What that is or how to stop it, I don’t know. I suppose if I had the answer, I could run for president. But answers are subjective.