Sunday, September 11, 2011

Decade of Decadence

Xan had always known the importance of giving people a choice in matters where choice was unimportant. -- P.D. James, The Children of Men

All the commemorations, benedictions, genuflections, invocations, pronunciamentos, and various ceremonial prostrations are fine and/or dandy, and entirely in keeping with the usual expectations. No surprises there; really, there are very few surprises to be had anymore, when it comes to the political realm.

And this is nothing if not a chiefly political issue, tribal identifiers binding with solemn rituals. The key rule for any political issue is that it is infinitely more important to be seen and perceived as Doing Something, than it is to actually do something. It has always been thus, bizarrely symbols frequently become far more important and protected than the actual ideals and values they symbolize.

These sorts of things, candlelight vigils and solemn public liturgies, rote speechifying, have never done anything for me, regardless of the occasion. It's not that I don't think or care about what happened ten years ago -- I did and do care very deeply, and scarcely a week goes by that I don't think about it, the event, its repercussions, still unfolding, still metastasizing.

It's incomprehensible to me that anyone needs to be reminded of it, or feels the urge to display and share their grief. Unless it's completely spontaneous, an extemporaneous situation, frankly I don't trust people who grieve with complete strangers. And I sure as hell don't trust individuals who get weird and insistent about, say, the supposed divine meaning of intersecting I-beams, in the wreckage of a building that had countless such pairings. I don't discount the value of such anodyne objects in the wake of tragedy, it's just that people seem to think it absolves them from anything and everything else. It doesn't; after any tragedy, large or small, we move on, or we wallow and die a little more inside every day.

And there need to be concrete sentiments bolstering the sacred rites. Without actual commitment -- to finding a better way to do things and resolve problems, to planning for an increasingly dismal future for the seething majority of 'murkins -- and acknowledgement -- of using grief and rage to inadvertently carve a lost decade into history, blood for blood a hundred times over (and the wrong blood at that), of chucking every principle we once stood for right out the window because of some psychopathic asshole in a cave halfway around the world -- nothing will change, at least not for the better. The question is whether that has been a flaw or a feature in the first place.

So we should definitely take a moment and reflect on that awful day, and spare something for all the awful days since then, what we might have done or not done if we knew then what we know now. The resilience of a country lies in its ability to come away from catastrophes with ideas about things, lessons learned, ideals to strive for. There is more to be done, and more that we're capable of, than lighting candles, wearing ribbons, and chanting "USA! USA!" at the Jets game, until same time next year.


greatestwirefan said...

My sentiments exactly. Thank you.

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Tyrone Slothrop said...

I know the hand-clapping doesn't offer much, but I'm with greatestwirefan, in that you've expressed my sentiments exactly. In particular, this line that you wrote:

I don't trust people who grieve with complete strangers.

contains a simple wisdom that appeals strongly to me.