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I missed a talk on 9/11 today. It was given by an important, published theatre theorist. I arrived for the talk back after the presentation, and it brought me back to an earlier post of mine.
I asked myself if I still feel the same, and it became even clearer to me today that I do. September eleventh made White America feel like a minority. Oppressed, attacked, and scared. The fear involved in the responses to the assault is telling.
So what do I do with this feeling? This odd schadenfreude? Because while I can point and say that on that day finally the oppressor felt a tinge of what the oppressed feels, it also happened to the already oppressed. All of us were under attack that day. We all participate in the capitalistic, colonialist minded empire that is America. So I have to acknowledge my subconscious collusion in feeding the beast that is our failed Bush foreign policy that brought on the mass killing from terrorist groups.
So I write about this feeling in order to work it out and do something with it that will promote change.
That’s where I am now.
Hearing the tail end of the talk I missed, I thought about my time living in NYC. My entire time there the mass grave was under construction. It was a mess. A disaster with some cranes and debris and work in progress. There was a dignity to the mess to me. A total quiet grace. In the wreckage there was an acknowledgement of the violence and pain experienced. The worksite was ugly, and what happened there was ugly. Walking by it, you had to face it. You couldn’t wipe it away or selfie it into submission. The anguish of that day was there in the mess in front of you. That is something reflecting pools and plaques with names cannot do; force you to face the ugly.
Now (and this was my fear at the time) it’s so sanitized and clean and pretty. The terror is erased and you bring your McDonalds fake food in a bag and take a picture in front of the cascading water into a hole and hashtag it #neverforget before you eat lunch. It’s all too clean and tidy. I remember thinking while I was living in NYC and walking by the construction “Please God let them keep arguing over the site and never finish.” That was the time when the design couldn’t be decided on and there were lawsuits and infighting and a total PR cluster fuck all around over the mass grave. I thought maybe if the powers that be kept fighting and never finished the site then we could sit with the fear as a country and process it, do something with it other than kill and continue to oppress in response.
But we continued on as America always does, we paved over the terror, made the once ugly safe and pretty, and moved on like it was all a dream.
We have forgotten, and that is where we are now.