It was duly and widely noted that residents of London returned to their normal living patterns just days after the bombings there on July 7th. More than just “stiff upper lip, and all that,” citizens there may have demonstrated that terrorism’s reach often exceeds its grasp in that, even when the bloodshed is close to home, the irrational and hateful design of terrorist acts only seems to steel the resolve of those attacked.
Or it was something else entirely.
Now that we’re gaining distance from 9/11, because it was four years ago, there may be a question of whether the world has truly changed or we have simply integrated the challenges of a post-9/11 world into the larger fabric of life. As we empty our pockets at the airport security scanners, how deeply do we reflect on the fact that people are trying to attack and kill us? Or have we adjusted, and might we just as easily be daydreaming about a piping hot Starbucks as thinking, “They’re checking me for bombs.”
To integrate change and adjust is human. To want, even in a prideful way, to show that “life goes on” by climbing on board an airplane or subway or bus soon after an attack is possibly courageous and even patriotic. But in the last two years or so, and especially when I fly, I’m troubled by the nagging feeling that too many people in America have moved on since 9/11 in a way that does not register the true dimensions of the experience we are having.
Or honor those who have been most affected. And if our President insists on sustaining a link between Iraq and 9/11, then that list must include those sacrificing right this minute in that combat.
Right now there’s a commercial on television that shows a new American-made automobile lining up to intimidate a dragster, one of those hi-tech ‘rails’ that race at speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour. However, the muscular Yankee production model wins the drag race. The entire sequence is a celebration of gasoline-gulping engines and the desire for horsepower. If the war in Iraq is in fact about oil, under the pretense and deception and delusion that our pursuits there are a war on terror, then this seemingly simplistic gearhead ad might be the worst kind of propaganda. If someone you know has died in Iraq, and you have doubts about the White House line on that war, you might find the commercial particularly obscene. Or, at least, insensitive.
Writers have always noted that during times of war, life goes on and that commerce is a part of life. But there’s “life” and there’s consciousness. In England on any given evening in 1942, you were not likely to escape some reminder that the world was at war. In America, on any given evening during the war on terror, you might need special probes to locate any in-depth information on the most recent insurgent attacks. In prime time, you’ll have to wait through narcissistic “make-over” and reality “dating” shows to get to any kind of news whatsoever.
Rather than a level of awareness that burns either orange or yellow, we seem to have a kind of blues about the deployment of terrorism. It’s bad, yet we don’t quite have the sense that the entire planet has been “mobilized.” Maybe we take our cues about anxiety from our leaders, who now always seem to encourage getting out and doing things regardless of the most recent threat.
Last week while sitting in the airport in Denver, I noticed that someone had left a suitcase in a chair seat. No one stood near the abandoned piece of baggage, even as airport announcements reminded all that abandoned bags might be confiscated or destroyed. With the London bombings still on the front pages, I got up and moved away from that bag. Moments later the bag was gone from the chair, but still very much on my mind.
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) Chief Justice Rehnquist
(a) no imminent retirement.
(b) more “pizzazz” on his robes.
(c) fewer “keggers” at his condo.
2) Cameron Diaz went to court to
(a) stop nude photos of her.
(b) announce nude photos of her.
(c) restart a career with photos.
(d) All of the above.
3) The Governator made a quick trip to
(b) a bank with his magazine checks.
(c) Joe Weider’s Jockstrap Ranch.
1) (a) “Now Nixon, he was a quitter…”
2) (d) “Did I mention that I’m nude…?”3) (a) “Please, no supplements in my taco…”