Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Killing Fields Forever

"I love this country. I hate it. I get angry at it. I feel close to it. I'm charmed by it. I'm repelled by it."
Norman Mailer

"The one generalization which is true about America is that everything is true about it. It's impossible to say anything that isn't true, good or bad. Our enemies are right. Our friends are right."
Orson Welles

"I love America with a passion. But this is a dark, screwed-up place, and anyone who doesn't think so is criminally insane or retarded . . . America was never innocent."
James Ellroy

ESPN lit the first fire. Makes sense. Corporate sports are spectacle. Part of the spectacle is to sell obedience. To our betters. To the state. To the flag. The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks encompasses this and more. Not that a heavy pitch is needed. Show the Towers crumbling and Americans are sold. Again and again.

ESPN has been running stories about sports as a healing balm. Discussions about its importance. Corporate diversion as medicine show. There's an element of truth to it. The best propaganda uses obvious truths. People crave inclusion. Desire love. Want to be on winning teams. The shock of 9/11 fed this need. Deepened it. Bent it in ways that remain evident.

Celebrations over Bin Laden's murder showed how bent many Americans remain since 9/11. If anything, we're uglier. Pettier. More desperate to prove our righteousness.

Killing Bin Laden had little to do with justice or revenge. It was about American primacy. The idea that a Muslim in a cave fucked with us rankled millions. What God-driven kick-ass nation tolerates this? That Bin Laden was wasting away meant nothing. We had to smear his blood on our foreheads to feel whole again.

But that was a false feeling. A nationalist crank high. Bin Laden's death didn't improve American reality. It was a media event. A state sacrifice. Watching people dance in the streets must have warmed our owners' hearts. Any release of popular hatred not aimed at them is a plus.

As horrific as 9/11 was, the class war that followed is much worse. Our owners don't need to fly planes into buildings to destroy lives. Just drain local economies and let them die. Physical, emotional, and psychic wreckage surround us. It's piling up. There are protests here and there, but nothing serious. Nothing that cuts into the fabric.

Poor people in a depressed area applauded a president who days before further strengthened corporate rule. Obama's re-election stunt in Detroit shows he'll face little populist resistance. Only those devoted to increased corporate power wish to see him go.

To say we are twisted is polite. We are fucked in the head. It's remarkable that our skulls aren't exploding.

Years ago I was asked what I thought of 9/11. Instant mass murder. Terror. Insanity. Sacrifice. Sadness. The obvious impressions. Then I said I was surprised it didn't happen earlier. We were long overdue for violent retaliation.

My questioner balked at this. America "deserved" to be attacked? No -- it was a simple matter of physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. All the violence we've unleashed on the world was bound to come back to us. It was only a matter of time.

The crucial difference is that our better victims wouldn't think of such a thing. The Vietnamese and the Nicaraguans had plenty of justifications for attacking American turf. But they didn't. No car bombs. No hijacked planes. No burning, collapsing skyscrapers. It took clerical fascists to do that. Cousins of our "freedom fighting" friends from once upon a time. It's said that water seeks its own level. Blood is certainly no different.

Maybe Mohamed Atta and company didn't care about the attacks beyond their perceived martyrdom. But they pushed an American button that led to a decade of violence, torture, lies, corruption, theft, and numerous war crimes.

Our reaction proved them largely right about our hypocrisy. Our concern only for American lives. Like them, we seek religious meaning in massive suffering. The Twin Towers have become the national crucifix. A symbol of pretend innocence. A marker for future crusades.

The 9/11 terrorists fueled the needs of American sensation. A lasting contribution to our vocabulary. An indelible piece of our collective identity. Without them, there is no current us. That's the true legacy of that awful day.