hanged men

12 September, 2006

I always feel the anniversary by the day of the week, not the date, so mine is still to come; Tuesday morning. My memorial has a few parts:

— I reread an account I wrote the week after, of my experience of that week, which I wrote with the mind to have as pure as possible a record of what I was actually thinking and feeling that wasn’t tainted by everything that’d happen since. (I also bought up every magazine I could find, to go with the account.) Every year I’m glad I did this, but I also wonder what I remember because I keep rereading it every year, and which bits of my response I’ve forgotten.

— If I have time, I reread this (and if I don’t, I tell other people to read it). It’s the only satisfactory answer ever found for one of my burning questions about the attacks: If the goal was terror and demoralization, why only 9/11? Why wasn’t the fall of 2001 FULL of al-Qaeda attacks? It would have worked so damn well! Anyway, yeah, this lays it out. It’s long and not simple but worthwhile things never are, are they?

— I also reread this, which I wrote on the first anniversary. I always wondered what to do with it. It’s not right for an article, but too outward-oriented to keep entirely to myself, yet too meaty to send in email. I posted it off my homepage and shyly sent the link around to a person or two each year. Shoulda known that technology would catch up with it: it was a blog post before there were blogs…

PS: I found this line in my personal account. I was not at all active in photography at this time (not even a p&s). Ha!


I wish I was two people, one with a camera,
because a lone figure in black crying and walking against a majestic urban
background full of people would make a hell of a picture. Then I wonder
if these are appropriate thoughts.


4 Responses to “hanged men”

  1. Dr. Birdcage Says:

    Sometimes I wish I’d written something down when it happened- I was in Chiang Mai, and there were desperate hours and days when it was impossible to get through to New York– and other times I’m almost grateful I didn’t. Most lucidly I doubt that I could have– five years later I still can’t. I thought about writing a post all day yesterday, and then didn’t. But I’ve appreciated reading your thoughts on it.

  2. jamy Says:

    I read the Harris article at your suggestion and I was with him almost until the end. The problem is that the Japanese certainly held a “fantasy ideology” yet they conducted the war with strategy. So both things can be true. Also, he gives Palestinians as an example, because of their willingness to “martyr their children.” However, it’s a false example. The Palestianians acutally have a defined, concrete political purpose, which they are forwarding via unconventional (and distasteful) means. Al Queda does not have such an agenda.

    I also want to know if he thinks an American fantasy ideology is why we’re in Iraq.

  3. furcafe Says:

    I have pretty clear memories of 9/11. I recall not being really scared, but feeling both sad @ the loss of life & also excited (a bit guiltily perhaps) that such momentous events were occurring. Me & a couple co-workers evacuated on foot from the Reagan Bldg. to my apartment, shared some beer & leftover stuffed crust pizza from Albertos, & spent the afternoon alternating between watching the Pentagon burn from my roofdeck, checking the news on my TV, & contacting (or trying to contact) friends & relatives via my landline phone.

    I think I was excited because it was impossible for me to not think of the parallels, flawed as they may be, to Pearl Harbor (this was perhaps accentuated by the fact that I had spent the evening of 9/10 shooting a swing trio @ Felix). Here I was, in Washington, DC, working for the oldest agency in the federal gov’t, an agency charged w/protecting the nation’s borders, & we had been attacked, an attack that I took kind of personally because of my personal & professional ties to lower Manhattan, NYC, & the Pentagon. I couldn’t help thinking that this was the hour that I was being called upon to serve my country, in my own bureaucratic way, just like my grandfathers were in their time & in their way. Despite everything that’s happened since, I still feel that way & it’s 1 reason why I haven’t changed jobs.

    I have to agree w/jamy’s criticism of the Harris article that fantasy ideologies are not incompatible w/strategic thinking or concrete political objectives. The Japanese imperial cult & myth of the divine Yamato race was their equivalent of the fantasy ideologies of Nazism, Italian fascism, & Soviet communism, & was virulently combined w/their own colonial designs on East Asia (one could argue that much of late 19th century European imperialism was the product of fantasy as well). I would disagree w/Jamy in that I think the Palestinians, particularly Hamas & Islamic Jihad but even Fatah, & Al Qaeda both combine the fantastic & strategic, e.g., many of the Palestinians do not merely seek to end Israeli occupation but to destroy Israel entirely & Al Qaeda has more mundane objectives like overthrowing corrupt secular regimes in addition to its ultimate goal of re-establishing the Caliphate & reversing the Reconquista. With respect to American history, I think it’s interesting to note that the fantasy ideology of the Confederacy helped create such stubborn resistance that the U.S. developed the doctrine of unconditional surrender, which was later pursued against the Japanese & Germans during WWII (& was 1 rationale for the development & use of nuclear weapons). As to Iraq, yes I would say an element of fantasy was (& is) certainly @ work in the current Administration.

    I had never heard of the Harris’s excellent article, but many of his arguments remind me of Walter Benjamin’s seminal theory of the aestheticization of politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_aestheticization_of_politics) & are in accord w/my own opinions of the jihadists. From a historical perspective, many of the seminal works of Islamic fundamentalism (Sayyid Qutb) & Ba’athism/Arab nationalism were contemporaneous w/European fascism.

  4. Thank you for linking to the Harris article. I hadn’t happened across it before, and it’s something I shall have to ruminate upon further.

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