9/11 Vigils and the Two 9/11 Narratives See this video before reading.
I was interviewed yesterday by Stephanie Veale of The Daily Orange, which is Syracuse University’s daily newspaper. I was attending (and playing 'disc-jockey' for) a local MoveOn.org event, and the stated purpose of the vigil caused every reporter in attendance to ask the same questions – What brought you here? What is the connection between Sept. 11 victims, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq?
My basic answer was “compassion”. I still grieve for the victims of 9/11 and their families. The pain from Katrina is fresh and emotional wounds are still bleeding. The death of every American troop and Iraqi civilian killed a cause for bereavement.
Compassion was not the only reason that I was drawn to the vigil. I could not ignore my strong belief that government has failed all of us. Katrina, 9/11, and the Iraq war are all interconnected parts of two distinct and separate American narratives. The first one is of a fabric that has been woven with mixed and misleading messages from the White House - and parroted by mainstream media. The second narrative is told with an equally-strong (but less commonly heard) alternative message from millions of American citizens. I credit MoveOn.Org for their ability and willingness to coordinate what I consider to be the true story, as told in bits and pieces by citizens across the nation. MoveOn.org helps to give that narrative a 'media megaphone.'
Judging from the questions asked by reporters yesterday, I can see that the White House/mainstream media-parroted narrative about 9/11 (in its relation to the Iraq war) has made the second narrative confusing.
That relatively few students attended the candlelight vigil in memory of Sept. 11, 2001 might be a soothing sign that people are moving on and the wounds are healing. Vigils are a nice symbol of unity and can be helpful to deal with grief. But if Americans want to help deal with the reality of dangers of all kind that face our country, it is time to hold the government accountable.
There were fewer people than I had expected to see at the MoveOn.org vigil, just down the street from the vigil at Hendricks Chapel. I wondered – was it because people are beginning to forget – or is it because they are ambivalent and perhaps numb because of all the 9/11 slogans they’ve heard from the Bush administration and the pundits of the Right? Is it because they see how an overcommitment of our troops to a war of option has severely limited our nation's homeland security/FEMA function, which has been hyped to make us believe we'd be safe?
These beliefs are just a part of the "second narrative" which, free of Utopian fantasy, runs parallel with the first, with reality and reason at its core.
What will be the future of 9/11 memorials in this nation, when we have two totally different narratives about a controversial war - a war in which an alleged war-worthy link is something we know that the Bush administration has clearly misled us about?
The memory of 9/11 is sullied by the false narrative.
How can we look forward? How will the two distinct narratives ever be reconciled? I don't think they can be. From where does our hope arrive? If you talk to any rational American, they'll look you in the eye and tell you they do not trust that Bush can make any kind of success of the foolishly-begun and failing Iraq war, because world leaders have long understood what the majority of American citizens had not begun to understand until now. The Bush 9/11 narrative was corruptly false - and the post-invasion plan was totally inept.
Although we wish we could, we cannot go back. When we think of looking forward, what do we see?
I believe that the most effective local act, promoting a hopeful civic spirit around the 9/11 Memorial theme, was set about by select students at Syracuse University yesterday. They used the memory of 9/11 to honor local firefighters. I applaud these students. From the Daily Orange:
As the flag stood at half-mast, a group of about 50 students decided to give back to the downtown community by honoring the local Syracuse Firefighters Association on Sunday morning. "It's an event that brings the whole country together," said William Coplin, adviser of the Maxwell Citizenship Education Learning Community and professor of public affairs in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
The memory of those who died on 9/11 will be best respected and remembered by the ability of all Americans to participate in a common effort to make their own communities safer.
We can't go back, but we can look forward.
We need to hold government's feet to the fire for the way they've let us down, from the failure of infrastructure which caused Katrina to ravage an American city to the glaring poverty of black Americans in New Orleans; from the false narrative we've been told about the link between 9/11 and the Iraq war to a "9/11 Freedom Walk" in D.C. where you would've gotten arrested if you'd attended without a "credential" and civilly disagreed with the Pentagon's completely false narrative.
A change is surely due to come, or this nation will be forever divided - bitterly so - by the two narratives. In a healthy and vibrant democracy, the majority of citizens who agree with a certain narrative are supposed to be duly represented by their government. How long will we be officially oppressed by the false one?