I have been thinking about how profoundly 9/11 changed my life, changed my worldview. It affected my friendships, my family relationships (such as they were and some were never much), my career. It drew me to people with whom I otherwise might not have spent time, including my oldest brother – unlike so many of our relatives, we did not reside in the historically illiterate, reflexively anti-American, Chomsky/Zinn/Finkelstein part of town (to paraphrase Hitchens). It crystallized for me so much which I already knew but – despite years of living overseas, years of education – had not been able to articulate. It forced me to see some people in ways I had been avoiding. The only other world event that had this same profound effect on me was the fall of the Berlin Wall.
For today’s anniversary, I would like to outsource my links to myself – what I posted last year; and in 2015; and 2018.
I’ll sign off today with a lovely quote from Brendan Behan, one that sums it all up for me – To America, my new found land: the man that hates you hates the human race.
On the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I cannot think of a better film from which to show a scene than the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and I’m hard-pressed to think of a more appropriate scene than this one. Extraordinary film, and rarely shown, even on TCM. Interestingly, they aired it today (and yes, we taped it).
I don’t want to let this day pass without saying something. First of all, I hate this day; I can’t bear the coverage or the memories. Second of all, here are a couple of great columns from the time, the first from Christopher Hitchens, the second from Ian McEwan. I have quoted frequently from the Hitchens’ column over the years, for the simple reason that it is brilliant. But this year I thought I’d quote from the McEwan piece, brilliant in a different way.
The hijackers used fanatical certainty, misplaced religious faith, and dehumanising hatred to purge themselves of the human instinct for empathy. Among their crimes was a failure of the imagination. As for their victims in the planes and in the towers, in their terror they would not have felt it at the time, but those snatched and anguished assertions of love were their defiance.
I cannot let this day go by without posting something. I’ll start with the still relevant Against Rationalization by the much-missed Christopher Hitchens. Oh, how we could benefit from his wisdom now!
And I’ll add this wonderful Brendan Behan quote, a toast (of course – he was an Irishman, after all):
To America, my new found land: the man that hates you hates the human race.
Finally, some thoughts that have been percolating: I notice that 16 years after that awful day, so many seem to have forgotten its significance. This morning, there was more hurricane coverage than anything else, which, I suppose is understandable, but still, our short memory-span is disturbing. Many difficult and terrible decisions had to be made in the weeks and months after the attacks and now, so many are still blaming the U.S. rather than the Islamist fascists responsible. The hijackers should never be romanticized as freedom fighters – the last thing any of them wanted was the expansion of freedom.
I did not want to let the anniversary of 9/11 go unmarked. Please watch this beautiful commercial — which aired only once — from the people at Budweiser. It is really pitch-perfect and brought tears to my eyes.