One thing good about Sept. 11 is that tomorrow is Sept. 12. The orgy of media attention that has led up to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, demolition of the World Trade Towers in New York and associated destruction elsewhere has provided scant room for unfettered personal reflection. Under the guise of collective 'caring,' the run-up to today's anniversary has thinned, if not obliterated, the chance to care... or anyway, that's my take.
Disasters or other revisions of a collective status quo (blackouts, blizzards, etc.) bring people together in wonderful ways, suggesting that the relentless pursuit of individualized goals really has missed some very important and consoling and ennobling point: There is nourishment to be offered and received in our social being. Disasters are wonderful in one sense ... people smile at each other and in that smile assert a bedrock understanding that is just plain (somehow) right. This is good news that requires no media hype and no pulpiteering.
Perhaps it is just a matter of being "scared straight."
But no thing is ever just one thing and disasters are no different. Being "scared straight" (if that is somewhere close to the truth) contains two obvious elements, "scared" and "straight." The collective "straight" that puts a smile on faces is likewise a collective "scared" -- and it is in that collective "scared" that the scary part arises, the part where the media has a field day and government can work its wiles.
Some three thousand people died in the demolition of the World Trade Towers. The horror was palpable, whether anyone was on the scene or not. Three ... thousand ... people. The word "tragedy" is reduced to the status of a wet wash cloth in the face of the facts.
And one possibility is ... suffer a tragedy, inflict a tragedy. Today, close to 80 American troops were injured and several Afghanis killed by a truck bomb in Afghanistan -- a reminder of the 10-year-old inflict-a-tragedy effort that has been sold as part of the "war on terror." In the 10 years since the World Trade Towers demolition, "terror" has taken its place in the politically-useful lexicon of governments around the world. Attacking those who 'might' attack us has become acceptable policy. Billions upon billions of dollars have been spent to ward off real and concocted dangers, some of them as ethereal as an overactive imagination. "Patriotism" has taken on a thin-lipped vengefulness that is miles removed from the "straight" smile of one for the next. And the straightness that any individual is capable of and can see and understand without effort is drowned or rerouted into a clenched jaw that refuses to surrender or see or revise.
Pulpiteers and philosophers are quick to indulge in encouragements based on the 'goodness' and 'joy' that people are capable of. Politicians and skeptics trumpet the inflict-a-tragedy hymn. It's all available to any who might wish to find their peace in the agreement of others. But when meanings and explanations have run their course and when peace continues to go begging, what choice is there but to nourish our firmness and learn how to...
Smile a smile that brooks no doubt?