“Yeah, I’ll bet, Amoeba. Where were you when the towers …”
At work in Maine. Watching as the then still-fledgling internet crashed under the traffic pressure. Listening to snippets of news from the local National Public Radio station.
But YFNA doesn’t recall the events of 11 September anywhere near as clearly as those of the following weeks.
The vigil in the local church the evening of the 12th, in which YFNA was nearly crucified on the spot for offering prayer for the attackers and a thought to what We Ourselves may have done to bring the attack to pass. Thinking consistent legacy of American arrogance, and the systematic political and economic oppression of not-Us peoples, especially in the Muslim world. Which he expected would get a sympathetic hearing in a ‘progressive’ church. Being heard instead, as YFNA learned way after it was too late, to say we brought this on ourselves because we haven’t exterminated gays.
The eerie, terrifying calm of the next several days. On 18 September, YFNA wrote (shock horror) a poem. It included recollections of a visit to West Germany in the waning days of the Cold War (1987); the German word Rauch (noun) = rauch (verb) means “smoke”, “I smoke them”. And, with apologies to German friends and readers, the pronunciation of this word is about as mean and nasty to American ears as you might imagine …
in the post of the smoke
there is quiet
the roiling has subsided
busy has returned
people are the same
they are quiet
in cold germany there was quiet
the streets full of busy
with signs for speed limits
and weight limits for trucks
the peace of the soldier at attention
the soldier who speaks no german
the people were quiet
the poster on the pole
young male black leather
Ich rauch dem
“You don’t know what we’re capable of.”
Then, on the following Saturday (the 22nd), the rally. Practically the entire town turned up. Including the town’s band, which contributed marches and various other noises to the proceedings, and ensnared YFNA as a co-perpetrator.
There was a parade. There were flags. And there were speeches, proclaimed from the front vestibule of the YMCA, proclaiming us all as proud American patriots who will smoke anyone who gets in our way.
The only things missing were the columns of light pointing straight skyward from the YMCA’s roof.
YFNA remembers that the USA had the sympathy and good will of practically the entire world in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks … overlooking, for the sake of charity, how the thousands of lives lost on this one, solitary, almost-never-repeated occurrence on American soil was a daily, mostly unregarded (and even unrecorded) event in dozens of places throughout the globe. A good will that, YFNA reckons, it could have held for eons had it held its hand, addressed some of its own ills, and rededicated itself to being a good global neighbor.
Fourteen years later, we are still committing troops to Afghanistan, with little discernable effect on the Taliban and allied forces either in Afghanistan or in neighboring Pakistan.
Osama bin Laden is dead, but his organization survives, and has spawned successors that make al Qaeda look like Girl Scouts by comparison, aided and abetted by free military training and propaganda coups (thank you, Abu Ghraib et al.) provided by your American tax dollars and mine.
Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi are dead, only for Us to discover that their regimes, whatever (or because of?) their moral deficiencies, were stabilizing forces in North Africa and the Middle East, and their demise has only made matters worse.
And within two years, citizens of nations that counted themselves among our allies were telling American citizens to get the hell out of their homes and shops, telling Us to go back to the States and take Our disgusting attitudes with them.
Attitudes that, in this, the 2016th year of the Common Era, have given us a choice between two Presidential candidates whom We favor (having rejected all others), one of whom promises status quo ante in Our War against
the Rest of the World Terrorism, and the other promises to install that cathedral of light on the White House lawn.
Both of whom grew up listening (and in at least one case, at least pretending to listen fervently) to Joni Mitchell and CSNY sing about butterflies.