“It was unquestionably the most terrible day of our age,” begins a News.com.au article headlined 30 pictures of 9/11 that show you why you should never forget. Fourteen years after I noticed the World Trade Center was on fire on my way to work, it’s still impossible to listen to other people talk about it. September 11th changed all our lives forever, according to a bunch of people who saw it on the news. Unquestionably, it was the most terrible day of our age, says an uncredited photo aggregator who was not at Hiroshima. Never forget, say people who remember where they were when they heard that a plane hit the World Trade Center, and it wasn’t lower Manhattan. Today is Friday, and events don’t have to happen to you to affect you deeply. It’s probably better they don’t. Won’t you survey tragedy from a safe remove with me?
The good news is that someone actually, personally affected by September 11th feels as ambivalent about it as the rest of us. Maybe even more so—Steve Kandell got to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum a couple days before it opened, because his sister was killed on that day we remind one another not to forget. Spoiler alert: the interface between his family’s tragedy and the nation’s is not a comfortable place to be. The gift shop at the 9/11 Memorial Museum sure doesn’t make him feel good. But he does not feel as outraged as he hoped, either:
By the time I finally reach the gift shop, the indignation I’ve been counting on just isn’t there. I stare at the $39 hoodies and the rescue vests for dogs and the earrings and the scarves and the United We Stand wool blankets waiting for that rush and can’t muster so much as a sigh. The events of the day have already been exploited and sold in ways previously incomprehensible, why get mad at a commemorative T-shirt now?
Our whole society has become a 9/11 gift shop—at least our whole national discourse. Okay, that’s probably still too much. This bar has become a 9/11 gift shop. The exploitation of 9/11 extends from here to the dance floor. There’s something wrong with the way we talk about September 11th, beginning with the brand name and extending through remarks like this:
“These cowardly attacks murdered 2,977 innocent civilians and nearly 5,000 troops in the subsequent War on Terror.”
Seriously, Former US Navy Seal Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT)? September 11th murdered the soldiers we deployed in subsequent wars? I think we may bear some responsibility for those deaths, particularly if you’re counting Iraq. But that’s the magic of 9/11: it is irrevocably linked to war. Sure, it was technically the day a team of fanatics killed 3,000 civilians, but everybody knows it’s also the day we found out we were at war with terrorism. Today we remember the men and women of our armed forces, who were not directly involved in the events of September 11, 2001, but who are definitely the most important people in society since it happened. Isn’t that right, Lieutenant Colonel Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA)?
The fight to protect our freedoms continues today. It is one of my greatest honors to put on our nation’s uniform and stand alongside the fearless men and women of our armed services willing to make tremendous sacrifices to defend our liberties and way of life.
Never forget that Joni Ernst was in the National Guard. Nationalism can get ugly sometimes. It can, just to pick a random example, mobilize thousands from one nation to kill people in another, to avenge what
other members of their nation 19 dudes from a third nation did.1 Or it can just make people dicks to strangers. We should stop prioritizing locals over travelers, Mose writes—in our bureaucratic structures, in our urban planning, and at our borders. Consider the unintended consequences of rent control:
Rent-control policies are anti-nomad because they reward the most extremely long-term sedentary people with exclusive access to lower rents in desirable locations. People who change locations have to choose from the remaining, much more limited (and therefore expensive) housing options.
If you are in charge of rent control and reading this, give me a rent-controlled apartment. But also consider how the person who lives in one place for decades is perhaps not the ideal citizen, although he is more likely to reach a place of influence in his community. Nomads have been around forever, but nomads who participate in liberal democracy have not. Perhaps we should reconsider who “we” are.
Or we should say “we” all the time and mean people who agree with the speaker, conveniently filing those who disagree under “they.” This thing Sarah Palin said is so ineffable I’m going to quote it entirely:
Thanks to Jon Favreau—the former Obama speechwriter, not the former guy who didn’t know he was money—for the transcription, and props to The Cure for the link. What Palin said here makes just enough sense to scare me. “The call to action is to take action” is alarming. But look at the weirdly periodic flight into cliché. It’s like she read “Politics and the English Language” as a manual instead of a warning. Also, bummer that the media has been relegated to the ash heap of history. I guess Sarah Palin will go back to gutting fish.