The 9/11 blues
At any rate, here it is. Even though the actual date of 9/11 has not yet come, I am heartily sick of the commemorations that are streaming out of all our media. Maybe foreign newspapers, such as the Times of India (an excellent resource, btw), would offer relief, but I doubt it.
Don’t you know Dynes that thousands of people died there? Well, many people die every second, some of them unjustly. We don’t expect to find that fact being used as an excuse for muzzling honest opinion. But in the vast empire of 9/11 Piety things are different.
With three unnecessary wars, and a meltdown of the economy, the country went seriously off track. We were supposed to be engaged in a vast struggle against Terror, which had “declared war" on us. Instead, with George Bush in the lead--truly the Manchurian Candidate--we came as close to destroying ourselves as we could. 9/11 triggered this process, but we keep on repeating the mistakes made in the last ten years. Now we are supposed to commemorate those ten years as if all we need to do is mourn.
The history of the site in lower Manhattan is both comic and tragic. Only one building is approaching completion, yet it already looks like a ruin, since no one can figure out how to cover over the vast wound in the lower floors.
On September 12 there will be closure (NOT), when two big square pits--holes in the ground--are dedicated. (A wag suggests the two square holes be named "Brad Pitt" and "Michael Pitt." But no matter.)
Here are some pertinent comments from Slate Magazine by the architectural critic Witold Rybczynski, dated Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011.
“At New York's Sept. 11 Memorial, water-filled pits stand where the towers once were. Architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker are credited with the design of the 9/11 memorial in New York City . . . [A]n unintentional third designer is Rudolph Giuliani, who as mayor supported the idea that the World Trade Center site was "hallowed ground" on which nothing should be built. By 2003, when a competition was held for the design of the memorial, the idea that the one-acre footprints of the twin towers should be preserved had hardened into a requirement. And that is what people will see on Sept. 12: two vast water-filled pits where the towers once stood.
“The design of what has turned into a $700 million memorial has been much simplified since the competition, which is all to the good. The underground museum remains, but no longer theatrically looks out through a veil of falling water. The names of the deceased, originally below ground, have been moved to the surface. The pits, 192 feet by 192 feet and 30 feet deep, are lined in black granite—black as death. Water cascades down the four walls and disappears into a square hole in the center of the pool.
“[By comparison with Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial,] there is nothing comforting about gazing into the vast pit—-or, rather, two pits—-of the 9/11 memorial, the water endlessly falling and disappearing into a bottomless black hole. The strongest sense I came away with was of hopelessness.”
Rybczynski has some more to say on a more positive note, but the comments reproduced above are the ones that resonated with me.
UPDATE. Tom Engelhardt says it better than I could:
"Let’s Cancel 9/11
Bury the War State's Blank Check at Sea
by Tom Engelhardt, September 09, 2011
"Let’s bag it."
"I’m talking about the tenth anniversary ceremonies for 9/11, and everything that goes with them: the solemn reading of the names of the dead, the tolling of bells, the honoring of first responders, the gathering of presidents, the dedication of the new memorial, the moments of silence. The works.
"Let’s just can it all. Shut down Ground Zero. Lock out the tourists. Close “Reflecting Absence,” the memorial built in the “footprints” of the former towers with its grove of trees, giant pools, and multiple waterfalls before it can be unveiled this Sunday. Discontinue work on the underground National September 11 Museum due to open in 2012. Tear down the Freedom Tower (redubbed 1 World Trade Center after our “freedom” wars went awry), 102 stories of “the most expensive skyscraper ever constructed in the United States.” (Estimated price tag: $3.3 billion.) Eliminate that still-being-constructed, hubris-filled 1,776 feet of building, planned in the heyday of George W. Bush and soaring into the Manhattan sky like a nyaah-nyaah invitation to future terrorists. Dismantle the other three office towers being built there as part of an $11 billion government-sponsored construction program. Let’s get rid of it all. If we had wanted a memorial to 9/11, it would have been more appropriate to leave one of the giant shards of broken tower there untouched.
"Ask yourself this: ten years into the post-9/11 era, haven’t we had enough of ourselves? If we have any respect for history or humanity or decency left, isn’t it time to rip the Band-Aid off the wound, to remove 9/11 from our collective consciousness? No more invocations of those attacks to explain otherwise inexplicable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our oh-so-global war on terror. No more invocations of 9/11 to keep the Pentagon and the national security state flooded with money. No more invocations of 9/11 to justify every encroachment on liberty, every new step in the surveillance of Americans, every advance in pat-downs and wand-downs and strip-downs that keeps fear high and the homeland security state afloat.
"The attacks of September 11, 2001 were in every sense abusive, horrific acts. And the saddest thing is that the victims of those suicidal monstrosities have been misused here ever since under the guise of pious remembrance. This country has become dependent on the dead of 9/11 — who have no way of defending themselves against how they have been used — as an all-purpose explanation for our own goodness and the horrors we’ve visited on others, for the many towers-worth of dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere whose blood is on our hands.
"Isn’t it finally time to go cold turkey? To let go of the dead? Why keep repeating our 9/11 mantra as if it were some kind of old-time religion, when we’ve proven that we, as a nation, can’t handle it — and worse yet, that we don’t deserve it?
"We would have been better off consigning our memories of 9/11 to oblivion, forgetting it all if only we could. We can’t, of course. But we could stop the anniversary remembrances. We could stop invoking 9/11 in every imaginable way so many years later. We could stop using it to make ourselves feel like a far better country than we are. We could, in short, leave the dead in peace and take a good, hard look at ourselves, the living, in the nearest mirror."
See the rest at antiwar.com.
Labels: Ground zero