The Epidemic of 9/11

I went to the Ohio State Fair with my husband and 4 year old daughter on Saturday. First let me say, great people watching. Second, I am beyond sick of capitalism as a scape goat for the commodification of pain. I walked by a T-Shirt stand holding my excited daughter’s hand as we were finding our way to Kiddie Land when low and behold there it was; the quintesssential drape of marked death being sold for ten dollars a pop to the nearest empathetic genius. A classic T-Shirt with stitching at the neck scooped like a hanged man’s noose. The T-Shirt branded with what has now become an American tag line, 9/11  We Will Never Forget. Oh, but we have forgotten… On the rack adjacent to the Forgotten Tee was yet another sorry excuse for capitalized empathy; September 11, 2011, 10th Anniversary, God Bless America!. I suddenly became sick as a pang of disgust riddled my body, I could feel the gag reflex at the back of my throat, a giant lump forming like a puss filled cyst waiting to burst open and infect the blood as it traveled to my heart.

I am a New Yorker who experienced the tragedy first hand, but that fact is not enough to gain credibility on this disheartening topic. I am a veteran who has family and friends serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (still not enough). I am an American student who has become ever more critical of her country as a whole, capitalism as a guise, Western ideals, and the fall of man as we strive toward global clones of such, inevitably erasing Eastern identity and commodifying cultures. We have commodified our own culture to the point of shame, I am growing fearful of what is next.

What have we forgotten? 9/11 happened to me. The streets of New York silent with fear and reverence. Paper trash inked with Broadway advertisements riding the wind down the Avenue of Americas settling for a home in a gutter of ashes. Tears streaming down my face as I stood on the corner of 6th Ave and 34th street staring in disbelief at the cloud of smoke hovering over the desolate city, a ghost town. I couldn’t breathe, the souls of so many lingered in the air, choking me. I remember the days that followed, the sudden immediacy of compassion. Where did the taxis go? Not even a few days afterward, the tables which once sold I Love New York T-shirts had been re-stocked with picturesque symbols of destruction; the Twin Towers burning with the American Flag waving in the background. Oh, and how about the good ol’ western influenced WANTED signs with Osama Bin Laden’s face in the center of the mock tea stained edged paper. Let’s go head hunting! hmmmm….that must be where the taxis went. I was sickened at how quickly we cashed in on our own blood. Patriotism took the form of racial profiling, brown faced discrimination wrapped in white linen. Where did that hot dog stand go? I remember Evil begetting more Evil, West versus East?  No, mob mentality. People colliding with their fellow brethren to appease the fear in their quivering hearts. Blurred brown faces. Afghani and Iraqi, Indian and Pakistani, Muslim, Hindu, Middle Eastern, Brown faced, all became terrorists. Lives intruded upon in the guise of Homeland Security. Degrading rhetoric.

Back to the Fair. I watched as people lined up to purchase and wear these T-shirts. Sheeple ignorantly buying into the 9/11 epidemic. A disgusting display of what has been lost, what has been forgotten, all the disrupted lives, the untold amount of death and destruction, two blood infused wars of forced democratic assimilation. I swallowed the bursting cyst in my throat, held onto my daughter’s hand and scurried past the patriotic crowd of ignorance. C’mon let’s buy a funnel cake! I took a bite, and as the sugary fried batter touched my watering tongue, my memory lapsed. Ohhh…Pig Races!

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11 thoughts on “The Epidemic of 9/11

  1. Michelle, your post was truly eye opening and very moving. The question of “what exactly has been forgotten” and this idea of 9/11 happening on a symbolic level as well as a personal, physical, national, racial level are so interesting and thought provoking. Needless to say I too am disturbed in the same way you are. I was only 12 years old when 9/11 happened and I was sitting in French class when everything stopped as the loudspeaker went on and our principle told us what had happened. I remember my friend bursting into tears at the fear that a family member that might have been on that very plane that very morning. From hearing the announcement, to watching the news, to walking home from the bus stop, it just felt like a dream. It still does sometimes.

    • Thank you for your comment. I was 19yrs old and attending college in NYC at the time. It was a life disrupting experience for me. I guess my whole point in the blog post was; I just don’t understand why we have to commodify everything. We commodify pain like we bottle water, religion being at the top. It’s mind boggling. Also, the racial profiling and the Patriot Act affected so many people in NY. Friends of the Muslim faith feeling as though they had to hide because people in the streets became lynch mobs head hunting for the nearest “towel head” they could find. The insanity of it all.

      • Strange how so many in are class are from the East Coast.

        I was in school in Elizabeth, NJ when it happened. Everything shut down. The teachers tried their best to keep their mouths shut and not let anyone know what happened. The parents came in and picked everyone up. The local radio stations were all turned into emergency broadcasting stations (except for the few who were somehow knocked out from the events). I had no family members who were involved. I have no real attachment to anything that happened there, yet I still feel something missing when I drive from NJ to NYC along the Pulaski Skyway. An emptiness along the skyline of skyscrapers. My deep nationalism for the U.S.A. was hurt, apparently.

        Anyways, I feel like the aftermath of 9/11 and the assumption that anyone with brown skin is automatically a terrorist spans far wider than NYC. Surely, it was prevalent there (especially with the fairly recent debate over allowing a mosque being built near the wreckage), but I’ve seen plenty of it around here in Ohio. I hear the blatant racism from random people I talk to online.

        Crazy how one event can alter so much.

  2. IMHO, you come very close to stepping over the line, but I, too, often think about what it means when I see similar images. There is no arguing that those who are old enough to remember have a vivid picture in their minds from that fateful day. My question, dare I ask, is what do you see as a solution to the capitalist funnel cakes that lulled you back into reality?

    • Thanks for your honest opinion. Sadly, I had to look IMHO up because I’m not savvy on the whole text abbreviations! How pathetic is that! LOL! 😉 Why do you feel like I’m stepping over the line? What did you find offensive? I’m just trying to raise questions about why we, as Americans and as humans, see a quick buck in everything at the expense of others. I strongly disagree with commodifying everything from the Crucifix to 9/11. If I wear a cross around my neck does that prove I am a good Christian? even if I never go to church and I’m a con artist looking to turn a trick? I feel as though commodifying something for the sake of capitalism diminishes the meaning of the source. You can go into a general store or a gas station and buy a plastic cross for a dollar. What does that say about our faith? Just think for a minute about the people who suffered during the 9/11 tragedy. Thousands of people missing, their family members searching tiredlessly for them and when they cross the street at the T-shirt stand on the corner of their soot covered apt they see a man selling a T-shirt with the twin towers burning not even 24hrs after they fell. Tasteless? Would you go to a funeral and take a picture of the deceased in the coffin and then try to sell the picture back to the family at the reception? I’m merely playing devil’s advocate. About the funnel cakes and the dulling of my senses; I was trying to show that I’m just as guilty. We don’t want to think about these things. We prefer to stay ignorant since we all know that ignorance is bliss. What’s sad is that many people truly are unaware of the Patriot Act and how it affected Muslim Americans and all peoples who appeared to be of Middle Eastern decent, appeared being the operative word. Please share your thoughts. Thanks.

      • Are we commodifying or making readily available those products people wish to use to express their faith, or in your posting their ‘patriotism’? I’m with you in that I think 9/11 invigorated a sense of urgency in many Americans, or gave them a swift kick in the ass if you will; I’m also with you in regard to the Patriot Act in that it started a manhunt for anyone who didn’t blend in with his white neighbor.

        My mindset tends to border on cynicism and hysteria, so I can understand the point you’re trying to make with your commodification theory, but are there not people who truly want to show their support for love ones lost? Are there not people who were directly affected by the tragedy that want to flaunt their pre-2001 patriotism? Of course there are; some people need that kind of validation in their lives. I don’t think they are to blame.

        Of course there are better ways of doing it, I won’t argue that, but who are we to decide what those methods are? To some, wearing a $.99 Circle K cross is enough to show their faith, to others prayer and worship, my point being to each his own. We live in sick and twisted times where people want to convince others that they have a mind of their own while ducking into the shadows of the taller man.

        The shirts were made because the manufacturers knew that the demand would be there: people wanting to prove that their moral principles are worth something. It almost begs the question, which came first, the chicken or the egg? I fear we’ll never know. All I can tell you is, everyone has a little devil (read: angel) sitting on their shoulder telling them how best to fit in with their fellow American.

  3. Mr. Adams, Thank you for your comment, it was very poignant and well written. My question for you is this; why are we bred to believe that showing support for a cause entails consumerism? Why must I wear a cross, either made of cheap plastic and sold for $.99 at the local Circle K or a $3,000 diamond encrusted platinum one from Tiffany’s, to express my faith? Faith is intangible and yet, that too has been commodified. Haven’t we all seen the late night infomercials? “If you want to be a true believer, buy this collection of sermons for $29.95 and we’ll include an extra set of hymns for your listening pleasure!”. Flaunting patriotism….that phrase in of itself shows how much we, the citizens of America, have been brainwashed into consumerism as a means to prove our self worth. Id. Ego. Superego; Triple threat used with precision and efficacy to empty our pockets leaving us clinging onto the faith we found superficially hidden within our $.99 Circle K cross.

  4. You ask why must we, I ask why mustn’t we? At the risk of sounding philosophical, if we don’t prove to others that we have faith, do we really possess it? If we don’t flaunt our patriotism in the faces of others, do we really bleed for our country? I suppose that lends itself to faith all alone, the problem being, we won’t know until it’s too late if faith pays its dividends owed.

    I agree with you, consumerism is sick, I won’t dispute that, but are we as humans who are the quintessential consumer any better than the masterminds behind it all? You’ve made the point from the beginning that we’re all to blame, so what’s the point in placing any blame at all? Someone very wise once told me that an argument like this will go on forever with no end, so why argue at all?

    The only answer I can provide is that we all wish to validate our own beliefs, even if they only differ from our neighbor’s by a negligible amount. What will we take with us to our graves? The arguments that we won, or the believes that we fought tooth and nail for?

    The choice is yours.

  5. Thanks again for your reply. I can’t help but feel as though you’re missing my point. I’m not placing blame on anyone. I’m simply stating; although capitalism is a necessary part of our economic structure, do we always have to exercise this Western right at the expense of others and do so with an air of entitlement, and ignorance to the plights of those affected by tragedy? Personally, I don’t want to go to my grave carrying the burdens of others nor will I buy into the B.S. that in order to prove my faithfulness to my religious beliefs, and patriotism to my country, I will have to wear my faith around my neck or show my support for my country by purchasing the biggest American flag I can find and hoisting it up on my roof for all the world to see. Instead, we have other avenues, this blog for example, to express our beliefs. Not to mention, I took the most patriotic step; I joined the military. I fought for my country. I wore a uniform, but never flaunted it. Trust me when I say, I was proud to serve. Ironically when I die; an American Flag will be placed atop my coffin as I’m lowered into the uncaring ground. As an honor to my service? Yeah, OK. who will see it when I’m down there? In the grand universal scheme, none of this matters. But so long as I live, I will remain disgusted whenever I see sheeple soaked in the blood of humanity while being mauled by the wolves of power at the helm of destruction. “Hey! Look! They’re selling T-Shirts! Sweet!”

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