I thought I would spend this past 9/11 like I spend it every year: listening to Bruce Springsteen’s album The Rising and watching The West Wing’s Isaac and Ishmael episode. I’ve written about Isaac and Ishmael before, as a jumping off point for the discussion of who exactly this other is, and whether they really hate us. I wonder if Aaron Sorkin would still write Josh (and the episode in general) the same way now. At the time, I think we all felt pretty damn good about hating the other, acknowledging that there are people in the world hate Americans because we’re free and awesome and they don’t want people in their world to be like us, especially if those people are women and Jews. Mostly, I wonder this because Josh is largely considered a representative of Sorkin himself, and because at this stage in the game, most educated people know that suicide bombers of all stripes are suicidal first and foremost, and their method is often an afterthought, or the product of intense coercion. Also, I believe most intelligent people know in their hearts that the rest of the world isn’t this absurd freedom vacuum that we’ve painted it to be, and that most people of the world, while often different from us in many ways, don’t generally hate us much, if at all.
Sorry, it just always seems necessary to counter some of the weird that is our version of 9/11 with…something else.
I did listen to the Rising the week before, which is very much about us and our lives and who we are now because of 9/11. I also watched United 93 the night before, which I think every person who feels effected by 9/11 should watch. It was really quite beautiful and showed me things I never knew. Perhaps it was because I was so young, or because I felt so overwhelmingly claustrophobic because of the constant crush of coverage that I shut it all out, but United 93 did for 9/11 what this USA Today article did for Columbine.Nevertheless, I did something very different on the day itself.
In the morning, I went to the Art of the Americas wing in the new MFA, which was oddly appropriate. It still felt weird, though, as if we should all be sitting around being sad, continuing to absorb stories so sad they seem fake. After taking my dad to the MFA, eating some lunch in the outdoor courtyard, and stalling in the parking lot, we drove home. I was surprised that when he saw cars lining our two-house street, he assumed the neighbors were having a party. When he saw little Mathew with a soda and a football walking up to our house, he may have been suspicious but fell for Matthew’s expert fib. It wasn’t until he spied the canopy and saw his younger brother driving up our driveway that he laughed, looked truly amazed, asked me, “Really?!” and gave me a hug.
We had pulled off a surprise birthday party for him, two weeks before his birthday and 24 hours before my departure for Greece for three months. Friends he’s had since college were there, as well as most Harringtons and Murphys, and all of our neighbors. Mexican food, sunshine, margaritas and a guitar-shaped cake made up my 10th anniversary of 9/11. I didn’t know until that day that I would need them so much, that I would need to have something to do instead of crying in the car listening to the stories.
If the object of terrorism is to spread fear via indiscriminate acts of violence as a means of taking down a regime, than the very best way to combat terrorism is to remember without fear, discrimination or malice. To honor those lost in a way that would make them proud, not way that would make them wonder what happened to us and to this country. I think it is good to have something to do on that day, other than sitting around and speculating, crying in a paralyzed sort of way. Some have turned this into a Day of Service, similar to MLK day, and that seems fitting. I think it is healthy not to spend quite so much time talking about Osama bin Laden, regardless of whether the rhetoric is of the bravado, “git er done” variety or the self-righteous “killing is always bad,” type. I think it makes us more whole when we turn off the weeks of 24 hour news coverage, and go outside to spend time with family and friends.