Monday, August 14, 2017
After 9/11, a lot of b.s. songs were played and written -- usually scream violence and hate.
I always felt we should have pressed pause.
And taken Jewel's "Hands" to heart.
I turned off the TV and hit the road to avoid the pity being coerced into rage.
At one point, I bumped into Joan Didion and we compared notes.
She went on to write one of the most sensible pieces. (Here for it at THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, you can also order it as a pamphlet at AMAZON.)
I found myself onstage at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco unable to finish reading the passage, unable to speak at all for what must have been thirty seconds. All I can say about the rest of that evening, and about the two weeks that followed, is that they turned out to be nothing I had expected, nothing I had ever before experienced, an extraordinarily open kind of traveling dialogue, an encounter with an America apparently immune to conventional wisdom. The book I was making the trip to talk about was Political Fictions, a series of pieces I had written for The New York Review about the American political process from the 1988 through the 2000 presidential elections. These people to whom I was listening—in San Francisco and Los Angeles and Portland and Seattle—were making connections I had not yet in my numbed condition thought to make: connections between that political process and what had happened on September 11, connections between our political life and the shape our reaction would take and was in fact already taking.
These people recognized that even then, within days after the planes hit, there was a good deal of opportunistic ground being seized under cover of the clearly urgent need for increased security. These people recognized even then, with flames still visible in lower Manhattan, that the words “bipartisanship” and “national unity” had come to mean acquiescence to the administration’s preexisting agenda—for example the imperative for further tax cuts, the necessity for Arctic drilling, the systematic elimination of regulatory and union protections, even the funding for the missile shield—as if we had somehow missed noticing the recent demonstration of how limited, given a few box cutters and the willingness to die, superior technology can be.
These people understood that when Judy Woodruff, on the evening the President first addressed the nation, started talking on CNN about what “a couple of Democratic consultants” had told her about how the President would be needing to position himself, Washington was still doing business as usual. They understood that when the political analyst William Schneider spoke the same night about how the President had “found his vision thing,” about how “this won’t be the Bush economy any more, it’ll be the Osama bin Laden economy,” Washington was still talking about the protection and perpetuation of its own interests.
These people got it.
They didn’t like it.
They stood up in public and they talked about it.
A lot of people feel impotent at times like these.
I don't do fear well. If I'm afraid of something ("I won't be made useless, won't be idle with despair" -- Jewel), it's time to move forward right though it.
"Hands" is a great song. It talks about the power we have within, even in times of crisis.
A pity party's going on as people rage in their tea cups.
Let's remember "we are never broken."