I’ve called most of my friends in New York and so far everyone is accounted for. Family members knew people who were killed.
We’re all kind of shellshocked, like waking up fine in the morning and having your arm amputated by noon. It definitely hits closer to us who have lived there. I feel as if a deep anchor in my subconscious has been cut loose, and it comes at a time when I am feeling a lack of grounding in my own life. It is hard to tell how much these feelings are part of our collective human and American experience right now, and what is tangled up in my own personal story.
Compounding this confusion is my own inherent mistrust of media images, and the statements issued by our government through the media. I have always been critical of taking “coverage” at face value — a stance which was highlighted watching the Branch Davidian compound in Waco burn. Yet in the middle of all this is the incontrovertible fact of the twin towers collapsing. This was a landmark I saw on my way to work every day for years. I’ve been on the top, on the bottom, in the Windows on the World restaurant. To watch planes smashing into it precludes any efforts at simulation, interpretation or spin. There is no room to second-guess these images, unless a hoax of such magnitude has been perpetrated that it would probably take more resources than the act itself. I see footage of dark-skinned people singing and waving the Palestinian flag and am told they are celebrating the attack on America — but I do not know what is really going on. I see the ultimate icon of America’s success crumbling in flames, and there is no need for anyone to interpret this for me. This is the source of the terror — and the success of this terrorist act: that its symbolic force is so direct and so complete.
I have extremely mixed feelings about all of this. The people responsible for this should have their brains slowly scrambled in public, but no human act can compensate for this inhumanity. And yet, I have long been aware that the worldview presented to the American people through our news sources is not the only story. There are people suffering throughout the world as a result of our tax dollars, our civilization and our excess. There is a lot of anger which, though not always well-educated, is not always unjustified. An act of aggression against civilians is unforgiveable — but tell that to a nation who dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. I understand the anger of many in the Middle East against us, to the extent that I know the facts. The problem is I know so little — as little as most Americans. Combine that with my own skepticism of the CNN version, I find it hard to take a position. I fear we are facing times when this noncomittal stance will become untenable, perhaps even criminal, yet the issues involved are not as clear as any side would have us believe.
Our civilization had fancied itself free from History, but History has reached up and grabbed our leg as we were scrambling for the escape hatch. It is resounding all about us, and will continue to do so for some time yet.