You don't have to read this. It's just another thing that's essentially the same as all the ones above. And yes, I know, I don't daylog but I'm daylogging.
Having said that. I'm in New York at the end of a six week stay, just before going to university in the UK. Being a foreigner in New York at the moment is extremely odd and being in New York at the moment is extremely odd and I want to put this down now.
I think the only thing today has really brought home to me which I hadn't fully understood is how extraordinarily media-driven the world and particularly the US is now. The media no longer reflects the mood: it attempts to set it. Every single channel here has been bandwagon jumping like there's no tomorrow: I can accept it on your CNNs and ABCs and NBCs, but it's when MTV shows a program about the music industry's reaction and E! gives us 'celebrities reactions - right now they're not celebrities but normal people like you and I' (in which case why interview them?) that it gets absurd. And the thing is that this IS an important day. It matters that this happened, a lot, more than any other single event during my lifetime. But it would be terrible if we became desensitised to this because of the saturation of it, and that's in danger of happening. I've lost count of how many times I've seen the replays of what happened, and I'm not going to watch television today. There's something horrifically voyeuristic about seeing it again and again, particularly the moments of impact: it's easy to start watching it without being really aware and then suddenly you get a jolt of realisation that you're watching the precise moment at which a whole bunch of innocent people were killed.
Language really matters, because as someone once said, if you control it you control how people understand the world. To whit: a memorial plaque at ground zero commemorates 'the heroes of 9-11' and then lists all 2 800 names of those who died. Now, most of these people were not heroes, they were unconscious victims. The thing is, the intended glorification of them as deliberate martyrs, when in fact they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, doesn't glorify them at all. It denies their humanity because it suggests that somehow being a victim isn't good enough. It's as if we're ashamed, which is totally bizarre. They were totally innocent victims of an horrific crime, and they should be remembered as such, not used as a propaganda tool to make us all feel big and tough. I guess it's easier to deal with them as 'heroes' because it makes us feel as though their deaths weren’t in vain, that they meant something, that everyone who died took a conscious decision and, as I heard one bereaved woman putting it, died for America. But they didn't. They just fucking died, and it's so unfair.
New York feels strange right now. The subway this morning was a weird experience, and lots of people looked a little nervous. (The staff have been equipped with radiation detectors, which is enough to put the wind up you.) The office where I’m working is right next to Union Square, which is where lots of people put up missing notices last year. This year the city put up big display boards and left pens and paper on tables: the resulting messages are a bizarre melange of the borderline psychotic racist, the maudlin, and the genuinely moving. This is what that I keep finding: I feel like I have dealt with this thing, and that it isn’t affecting me anymore, and then I see one incredibly cheesy bad poem about someone’s father who died and it’s completely devastating. The memorial at Grand Central Station is much the same. It was the fact that it was so clumsy that made it powerful: so much of the memorialising is stage managed to the last detail, but this was entirely human. There were lots of poems, for instance, and they were all really bad; and there were lots of drawings of doves and stuff and they were terrible too.
I'm not sure if I'm explaining this well. Somehow its crapness made it more extraordinary, if that makes any sense. I guess because it brings it home in individual, human terms, and because you read a crap poem and you think 'this is crap' but you also think that this exists because someone died for no good reason and someone sat down and decided to write it and then pin it here the better to remember them. I appreciate that this is all very corny. But sod it, it IS corny. It’s an impossibly sentimental experience.
One last thing: of course it fucking matters, excalibre. Terrible things happen every day, and you’re right that it’s important to remember that, for instance, more people die of AIDS every single day than died in the WTCs and the Pentagon and Pennsylvania; but this was deliberate. This was a decision some people took, the closest thing to ‘evil’, if such a concept is credible, in recent years, and it’s reverberations have changed the world, possibly for good. Its symbolic and practical impact has been absolutely extraordinary, and it’s not unreasonable to see it as an attack on an entire cultural system which defines your life whether you like it or not. (Proof? How about the fact that you’re using the internet?) Whatever one’s theories about the underlying causes of 9/11, and it’s definitely true that US foreign policy is heavily implicated in creating a world where something like this could happen, it’s still absolutely right and proper that we mourn the senseless events of last autumn. Not to do so would be a denial of our own humanity.