I almost didn’t open Jordan Hoffman’s Vanity Fair criticism of Spike Lee’s new HBO series on the September 11 attacks. The fact is, I generally won’t read or watch anything related to 9/11 because I have a physical revulsion to thinking about the topic. There is no way in hell, for example, that I would ever sit down at watch a program on 9/11, whether it be a multipart documentary or a fifteen minute explainer.
Hoffman’s criticism isn’t particularly interesting either, but it boils down to a concern that in a pre-final cut screening, Hoffman felt that too much credence was given to folks who subscribe to implausible conspiracy theories about why WTC7 collapsed. It seems likely that Lee will make some adjustments to that episode before the series is released, so I don’t much care.
It got me thinking about why I can’t think about 9/11 though, and it isn’t really related to the horror of the day itself.
Sometime shortly after the second tower collapsed a crowd assembled around my work space at the Sarnoff Corporation where I was working as a low level manager in an Integrated Circuit Lab. They knew I was pretty politically attuned, and they wanted to know what the government was going to do. I remember what I told them. I said that I hadn’t voted for the Bush administration and as Texas oilmen they were probably the worst possible people to have in charge at such a moment, but that we were going to have to trust them to get us through it. We had to pull together.
I stand by that. I told them we had to unite politically, but also that we shouldn’t think that the government would necessarily make good decisions. I wasn’t calling for blind trust, but more for giving them some leeway to deal with a very difficult situation.
That’s the seed of my present aversion to thinking about 9/11. All the wrong decisions were made. My good will wasn’t reciprocated. Even the person who performed most admirably on 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, has descended into criminal madness.
The current state of Iraq, Afghanistan, and our nation’s politics, is a testimony to the folly of trusting that anything would be handled correctly after the September 11 attacks.
I remember later that afternoon sitting alone in my living room watching the news coverage and having a profound sense of dread about what it going to do to our country. I’m talking about the reaction. I knew the reaction would be very bad and likely not go well. I could foresee things like making torture “acceptable” again and the Patriot Act and disproportionate uses of violence. I knew many of my countrymen would support these things and that, politically, little could stand in the way.
The reason 9/11 makes me sick is not because I can’t stand watching all those people die, but because it’s all tied up with my heartbreak about what it did to us as a people.