Saturday, September 11, 2004

Giving a tragedy its due

An extraordinary piece of writing appears today on the New York Times editorial page, a concise explanation of the tragedy after the tragedy that was the attacks of September 11, 2001.

It's been some time since we last conferred the "Sentence of the Week" title on the work of any particular writer, and since this comes from an unsigned editorial, we may never know the author of this elegantly rendered nugget of wisdom (Staples?):

The moment vanishes, and what we are left with are impressions, recreations and the solid residue of fact, which doesn't merely lie there waiting to be picked up but must be carefully elicited.

The tragedy after the tragedy, of course, is the simultaneous reluctance to truly look at the deeper meaning and precipitating events of the viciousness visited upon us while selected images of that day become appropriated as political symbols. The simplistic idea that our nation was hit because "they hate our way of life" may be appealing to both the public, which gropes for a comprehensible explanation, and the nation's leaders, who prefer a benighted populace to one with powers of discernment but, in the end, it leaves the American people more vulnerable than ever to another attack as they hold tight to the ignorance of their government's works in the world.

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A belated "by your leave"

Out among the denizens of Our Nation's Capital this morning, your blogstress took all manner of guff for having disappeared from the blogosphere for the last week without notice.

All she has to say for herself is that Blogstress does as Blogstress pleases, and for some reason, she has not wanted to blog. Perhaps it was the hangover of the hate vibe she ingested while covering the Republican National Convention. She's still not sure what to make of the whole deal, and she's certain that much has yet to be said about what actually transpired last week in the city so nice they named it twice--the hundreds of unnoticed arrests and detentions, the sight of the city where anything goes suddenly becoming the city where nothing went unless the authorities--often in possession of semi-automatic rifles--said it could. Then there was the reality of one's hometown occupied by an enemy that neither understood it nor cared about it, except for its symbolic representation of what the nation as a whole has to fear.

Which brings us to this day, the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. For those of us who endured as our cities were hit, who spent the day praying not to have lost a dear one, who saw towers fall and smoke rise over the Potomac, the crass manipulation of New York's grief during the GOP convention is personal. That's our grief being applied like a commodity to achieve a political end. That's our dread with which they hope to engulf the entire nation, and our dead whom they use as poster children for a war that has nothing to do with what happened on that cataclysmic day.

This writer will never know what it means to have lost a lover, friend, husband, wife, child, brother or sister on that day. This she writes today with the same sense of astonishment she felt when all of her dear ones were found to be alive, well and accounted for by the following day. It was touch and go for a while there regarding one so dear to your blogstress that she used to bring him supper while he banged up drywall in the stores that occupied the concourse of Tower One. By the gift of grace he was found not to have visited any World Trade Center clients that day, and instead watched his beloved towers fall as he sat in traffic on New Jersey's Route 3. But he has never been the same. None of us have.

And so, your cyberscribe cannot imagine how those who suffered those terrible losses experienced the Republican National Convention. One imagines their responses far from unilateral, as witnessed by the very moving tributes offered at the convention by three women who lost those closest to them on that bright, blue Tuesday. Yet it strikes your observer as incredibly callous to have used them to play the nation for an ill-deserved victory on November 2nd.

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