Sunday, September 11, 2011
WHY SO MAD?. Some events are too big. They're so big that everyone's aware of them to some degree, which seems unifying, but what's really happening is a kind of shattering, a splintering that can reduce all the pieces eventually to dust. Ten years on, that's what 9/11 is threatening to become. It still holds great unifying possibilities, of course, but most of what we've seen is the splintering, which is accomplished subtly because the stage is so large and the actors so numerous. That's why no single post can do it justice. And why this is only the opening salvo.
Today's commemorative events comprised two separate media streams. There were the official ceremonies and the NFL's lavish pre-game pageants and on-air pontifications. What's interesting is that both made a show of being nationally inclusive while promoting under the surface a distinct exclusivity designed to make most of us feel subsidiary, if not irrelevant.
Were you moved by the NFL's uniform full-field flag displays? Every stadium got the same show, and to greater or lesser degrees the fans dutifully chanted "USA, USA, USA" after whatever rendition of the national anthem was foisted upon them. What could be more inclusive than that? Except that the marquee games, the games telecast nation-wide, were the ones in Washington, DC, and New York (er, New Jersey). where all this commemoration matters, you know, more.
It would be easy to miss were it not for the proceedings at Ground Zero, Shanksville, and the Pentagon, where the overwhelming, almost sole, preoccupation was with the naming of names of the victims. At Ground Zero it took thudding, numbing hours to name all the names, as if we were being dared to quit watching from sheer boredom.
The rites in Shanksville were similar -- naming of names, on and on and on, with some speeches thrown in. Less so at the Pentagon, but not enough to represent an utter departure. The highlight was a moving military drill in which a memorial made of benches representing each victim received an individual wreath for each bench from as many representatives of the military in full-dress uniforms.
Leave it to the most unsubtle and domineering of all the participants to fill in the blanks for us unwelcome outsiders. Mayor Bloomberg, the self-proclaimed emcee of all things New York, banned basically everyone but the families of Ground Zero victims from even attending the tenth anniversary memorial. Not even clergy and first responders who had flocked to New York's aid from across the nation were invited. The 9/11 event belongs exclusively to those who lost loved ones in the 2001 attacks by persons who should not be named so as not to offend them.
I didn't object the first time they devoted a 9/11 remembrance to the naming of names. But we're ten years in now. Does Pearl Harbor belong exclusively to those who were related to those killed in ships and planes on December 7, 1941? And what would it mean if someone suggested it did and went out of his way to turn his back on everyone else while pretending otherwise?
Here's the deal. 9/11 happened to all of us. We have all been paying the price for ten years. A very steep price, one that has changed all our lives forever.
And 9/11 and its consequences belong to ALL of us. Here's what I saw on Saturday night:
It didn't end with this clip. The emcee at the microphone asked us all to stand, to pray, and, no, not to chant "USA" for a moment or two but to sing the national anthem together. And we did. Every single word. With our hands on our hearts.
Tonight I watched the Jets-Cowboys game on NBC, which could not have been more obviously packaged by NBC as an allegorical showdown between New York and the unwelcome others, personified by "America's Team," whose hated leader George W. Bush was actually on hand to flip the coin before kickoff. New York won in the end, almost miraculously, which entirely suits the MSM narrative. But the game was a lot closer than they'd predicted. Almost as if they didn't entirely understand the depth and talent and resolve of America's Team. I never root for the Dallas Cowboys. But I had no choice tonight. And I take comfort in the fact that we threw a scare into the solipsistic core of the Big Apple. Is it too late to do the same on the subject of 9/11?
This immensely important moment in our history is being hijacked from us. You should be angry. Are you? Do you still have it in you?