It seems this is the only thread that invites thoughts -- of any kind -- on that day. O.K., here goes. Here are some things that have hit me forcibly in the "walk-up" to the tenth anniversary.
I know there was never any other time in my life when the palpable sense of something intrinsically malevolent and twisted so shadowed me as in the immediate aftermath of that day. When I saw the wreckage of flight 93, the two towers collapsing, the fire at the Pentagon, the wrenching sobs from loved ones caught on camera, and so much else, I felt more acutely than ever before or since the strong presence of something both ancient and powerful that engulfed us, that negated our humanity, reducing human beings to so many dots on a graph. I've never since been able to view the term "collateral damage" in the same way I once did. At one time, I viewed the term as a callous one coined by impersonal insulated "suits" tucked far away from danger. But now, in the shadow of the fire from downtown, and in the thousand faces in a thousand pictures in shrines set up all over town, there were suddenly faces to that damage. It was not the "collateral" from the mouths of "suits" that now gripped me. Now, it was the real humanity of the "damage" that gripped me.
What spurs any person to contemplate any kind of action that coolly sets at naught the humanity of thousands? This is what 9/11 is, and even though it will not be the last cold-blooded massacre, it will always be the one that I will view as emblematic of a sickening capacity to devalue human beings. Is there really, as some believers say, a palpable demon, call it Satan or whatever, that feeds the egos of some and nourishes sick fantasies which place one at the center of all reality, as if you are all that matters, and that reject any notion that "the other" may count too? It even seems as if actions bred out of that sickness will include any of the reactions against it, as if even those reactions cannot escape the tentacles of this sickness, once it has been loosed. The sick fantasies, whether from a Satan figure or whatever, somehow help rig up a new "normal" in which even any struggle against the results of these fantasies is impossible without also inadvertently buying into the very same notion that "the other" doesn't count. Merely the personnel get changed when it comes to who "the other" is.
I never felt this chill of something so terribly ancient and hungry so palpably as I did in those days right after 9/11. I know that 9/11 is hardly the first time that actions born out of a devaluation of whole masses of humanity have "exploded" into being. But as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 nears, I'm recalling that sense of chill all over again, and I find myself seriously studying the trail of those "explosions" throughout human history. What I'm studying is hardly exhaustive, but the small corners in history that I am studying reveal a continual pattern of action and reaction going back thousands of years, with links right down to the present day.
One thinks of the way in which a strictly symbolic understanding of the different aspects of all human endeavor, from study/contemplation to protecting one's people to economic development to physical labor, as presented through strictly symbolic poetry in the ancient Indian Rig-Veda, morphs in the first millennium b.c.e. into a social strait-jacket of four social sectors throughout ancient India, thanks to unscrupulous manipulation by those only interested in power. Given these four sectors -- the brahmins as the "students", the kshatriyas as the "protectors", the vaishyas as the "developers", the shudra as the "laborers" -- whole families are thus only allowed to pursue one each of these four endeavors for countless ghetto-ized generations, and an arbitrary hierarchy even places these four sectors on a grid from most superior to most inferior. Enter the birth-based caste system imposed by the brahmins of ancient India. Thus is a whole sector of humanity, those families virtually imprisoned in the "lowest" sector, devalued, with any lives of dignity pre-empted from birth.
Then Brhaspati, founder of Lokayata materialism in the 7th century b.c.e., rejects the caste system and the horse it rode in on -- all Vedic beliefs in the divine as promulgated by the brahmins -- but he can not escape the impersonal psychology let loose in the notion of birth-based caste, though deploring caste itself. Instead, his doctrine rejects any moral obligation to feed the indigent or shelter the traveler, thus again dividing the "thinker" from "the other", who is again devalued. His ideas travel to ancient Greece (see etd.lib.ttu.edu/theses/available/etd-073...), where Diagoras -- disappointed in a lack of retribution against a bitterly hated rival -- and Critias -- seeking to arbitrarily remake all Athens in his own image and abolishing democracy -- pick up the notion that not only doesn't the divine exist but all human beings are purely objects to be impersonally distributed and arranged according to whim: "If anyone among you thinks that more people than is fitting are being put to death, let him reflect that where governments are changed these things always take place" (Critias in Xenophon's Hellenica, early 4th century, b.c.e.). So Critias shrugs off wholesale and cold-blooded extermination.
Greece introduces many fine things to humanity, but it also introduces -- to Rome and elsewhere -- this cruelly refined cynicism and skepticism duly found in the Critiases of its culture and then adopted by conquering Rome as it overpowers all in its path. When the Pax Romana is enforced to the point of nailing a certain gentle carpenter to the cross (30 c.e.), even that carpenter's later followers can not let go of the urge to devalue "the other", once they gain cultural ascendancy, with their initial raids on Jewish synagogues during the Emperor Theodosius and then culminating in the extreme cruelty of Pope Gregory IX (13th century c.e.), who is the initiator of the Inquisition and also the first to make persecution of the Jews official church policy rather than merely winking at it, as well as the first to establish official support in canon law for slavery (Corpus Iuris Canonici). The scourge of slavery whose horrors even extend into the New World, landing there in 1619, might never have held "legitimacy" for so long, short of this canon law imprimatur from Gregory IX.
Small wonder that a religious institution so subverted by such a man should later spur on a secret rejection from one clergyman so vehement that the very notion of the divine is not only rejected, but a whole class of people repudiated as worth nothing but instant death: "that all the great of this world and all the nobles be hanged and strangled with the guts of the priests." (Jean Meslier, Mon Testament, ca. 1720). Wholesale genocide thus enters the human lexicon as a "philosophy" once more, just as it is momentarily in Critias's day, rather than merely an untidy practice of tyrants and conquerors cloaked in euphemistic terms (conquest, victory, etc.). That "philosophy" lives on in Robespierre's worst excesses during the Reign of Terror (many don't know that Robespierre -- unlike Meslier -- remains a theist through all this), in the "Final Solution" for the German Jewry of Hitler's day, in Stalin's gulags, in the gratuitous Nagasaki bombing, in the Cambodian killing fields, in the Rwandan genocide, or in the fulminations from Osama Bin Laden, leading directly to the massacres on 9/11.
This is the continuing pedigree of the malevolent and twisted presence whose ancient shadow I sensed so palpably around us in the streets of Manhattan in the wake of 9/11. Are we doomed always to have that shadow over us?
It's a hard day to have an anniversary for. Anniversaries are joyous occasions. 9/11 was anything but joyous. I'm rather ambivalent about the whole 10th anniversary thing. I was shopping at Michaels and saw those cheap ribbon things commemmorating the day I got angry(no not angry enough to say anything). I watch the specials no matter how hard I try not to. I didn't lose anybody I love but my husband came home with dust(and who knows what else) on his shoes luckily before my son came home. My husband worked in the south tower when I met him. One 4th of July we watched the Macy's fireworks on the statue of liberty's 200th anniversary, it was a lovely day. I changed my whole life because of that day. So much sadness, so many obituaries so much pain. I guess I watch the specials because if those souls could live through it I can watch it to honor them. Pain seems like the right way to honor them. I hope I will never live through another day like September 11th again. Watching those towers collapse was the most traumatic thing I think I ever lived through. As far as why there are no threads, it's because as much as we were all NY'ers on September 12, 2001, it's not really true. The fight over the health care funding for the true heroes of that day was proof of that. I think everybody will talk about and talk about and talk about it between now and Sunday and then life will go on for everybody who doesn't have a personal anecdote about the people or the buildings or the way the path train used to drop you off underneath the towers to visit your boyfriend or take the train to your grandmother's house or how the fireman you didn't know had a collection at your local bagel store. It was a very sad time to live in NY and an impetus for many people to change their lives including myself. It's a very sad time to remember how much was lost on such a beautiful day.
With the tenth anniversary almost here one would expect to see a number of them--and yet--none.
I've waited and waited and finally decided that if I didn't start one no one else would.
One of my friends was going on a tour of New York City when the driver stopped the tour bus
and announced that they had to turn around and go back because New York City had
just been attacked. She said it was very shocking.
Welcome to bnet and thanks so much for your contribution to this thread. Stay around and post on matters political and current with the rest of us. It can get contentious here though--just like those family holiday dinners when someone just has to mention politics.