Another 9/11

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September 11

A New York Times headline asks, “Will we always remember 9/11?” The article is about the health care and compensation programs for responders and other survivors, which Congress appears willing to let lapse again.

But the question caused me to reflect on memory, and that we’re not all remembering the same day. We’d like to think that our memories are objective recordings of actual events, but they are not. I think memories are narratives we have crafted from our subjective impressions, and I suspect we all “remember” some things that never happened, or that happened very differently from what we remember.

So it was that as the Bush Administration tried to use 9/11 to hustle us into war in Iraq, the pro-war argument was “have you forgotten?” But the people asking that question were the ones who had forgotten, or who had too little experience of 9/11 to actually remember it. The war was never popular in New York City, possibly because people there really did remember.

This is one place where myths come from, I believe. “Memories” of real events become infused with meaning, and from the depths of our subconscious Jungian archetypes are summoned to act out that meaning. Eventually the details of the real event become completely lost, and only the archetypes and the reconstructed narrative remain. Modernity and recording technology frustrate this process but don’t stop it. Trutherism might be an example of post-modern myth making; unfortunately, the poor besotted truthers don’t recognize that’s what they’re doing.

At this point we all do remember that a Big Thing happened on September 11, 2001, but our recollections of that event have all become utterly personalized and subjective, so we really aren’t remembering the same thing.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. joanr16  •  Sep 11, 2015 @11:27 am

    On the way to work this morning I passed three people standing on a street corner with American flags and a “Remember 9/11” sign.

    My first thought: “Why that corner? Because it’s near a high school? Adjacent to a McDonald’s? Kitty-corner to the telecomm company?”

    My second thought: “How do they want us to ‘Remember 9/11’? Beat up a Muslim? Wear an American flag pin? Pay my taxes? Refuse to pay my taxes? Help Iraqi refugees flee the mess we created in their country?”

    My third thought: “I’m on my way to work. Don’t those people have places they should be?”

    In seriousness, I believe “Remember” should apply to the first responders and rescuers who were injured or became ill from their efforts, and were screwed over by our government; and the military personnel who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and mostly have been treated likewise. Else, all I can remember is that Richard B. Cheney and George W. Bush are still at liberty, and never will pay for their crimes even though Osama bin Laden paid with his crummy life.

  2. uncledad  •  Sep 11, 2015 @11:47 am

    “Richard B. Cheney and George W. Bush are still at liberty, and never will pay for their crimes”

    Right and their corporate media enablers are still editing and programming “news” outlets just waiting for another war to pimp!

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Sep 11, 2015 @12:48 pm

    9/11 is a now totem to our Reich Wingers.
    It symbolizes how liberalism led to American weakness and victimhood.
    Never mind the reality – it’s what they “believe.”

    Because of PNAC, and Cheney’s pals in the oil industry, he and his puppet, W, were drawn to the 9/11 tragedy like flies to shite – to use to their advantage. After, of course, they both, along with everyone else is their fuster-cluck of a mis-administration shat and peed their underwear for days.

    12/7 was about as devastating – only it didn’t occur on the US mainland.
    But in that case, it was an act of war.

    9/11 was an act of terror.
    And the idiot’s we had in charge used it to drum up two wars and occupations – which we will be paying for in blood and treasure until the next century, probably.

    Let everyone acknowledge 9/11 in their own way.
    My own way, reminds me of how we needlessly stick our noses in other countries business to protect certain chosen leaders, industries and corporations, and then are amazed when there’s blow-back.

    More blow-back to come, I fear…

  4. Swami  •  Sep 11, 2015 @12:55 pm

    My second thought: “How do they want us to ‘Remember 9/11’?

    Remember the Maine!
    Remember the Alamo!
    Remember Pearl Harbor!
    Remember 9/11!
    Well, Joan.. Among all the historical ‘Remember’ slogans that I can recall, there does seem to be a common theme of reinforcing an outrage rather than a message of In Loving Memory of those who lost their lives.
    I see the remember 9/11 slogan as a message of continued hate. I don’t need to be reminded of 9/11. Maybe when I get to the point where I need a pill caddy or need to be reminded to flush the toilet,than I might need to be reminded of that tragedy. But not until.

  5. Tom_b  •  Sep 11, 2015 @1:07 pm

    You know what I’ll remember about THIS 9/11? It’s one day after EVERY single Republican in Washington voted to make America LESS safe, just to score points with their base. Thankfully, they failed. At least this time.

  6. goatherd  •  Sep 11, 2015 @1:20 pm

    “‘Memories’ of real events become infused with meaning, and from the depths of our subconscious Jungian archetypes are summoned to act out that meaning. Eventually the details of the real event become completely lost, and only the archetypes and the reconstructed narrative remain. Modernity and recording technology frustrate this process but don’t stop it.”

    You took the words right out of my mouth. Okay, just kidding, I think you put it beautifully.

    There is a corollary in the controversy over the confederate battle flag. When my right wing friends put up their side of the argument, supporting the flag as heritage, not hate. Their arguments seemed weak and beyond that, they seemed to suggest that my friends had never done any serious reading or research regarding the Civil War. At first this came as a surprise, but it shouldn’t have.

    It’s nice if a narrative can have an element of truth to it or if it evidences some genuine contemplation and insight, but those attributes are secondary at best. The main function of most narratives is to validate and clarify the identity of a person or group and to bind them into a place and order in the world. In doing this, it must brand those who don’t subscribe to the narrative as ignorant fools, sheeple, “the other” or enemies of some sort. But, before I single out the great, great grandsons of Confederate veterans, I have to admit, that we have all done it. “We all remember some things that never happened.” There is a lot of evidence from studies of implanted memories and such to indicate that this part of the way our minds work. (Q.v. “Proust, Neuroscientist” if I remember the title correctly.) At any rate when someone tries to undermine our narrative, “they’re steppin‘ on our fightin’ side.” 

The best we can do is to try to keep our eyes on the truth, assuming there is some possibility that we might recognize it when it trips us up. But, the effort is taxing and most of us don’t have the stamina or dedication. Seeking truth is not a natural state of mind, it is a state of mind that we would desire, if the costs weren’t so great and it is a state of mind that we like to affect. We like to be associated with truth seeking, so we paw at the truth regularly, sometimes over a stiff cocktail.

    We might all benefit by having a great teacher to slap us in the face (metaphorically) every time we mistake illusion for reality or appearance for truth. Maybe that is part of what Zen does, but, I don’t know.

  7. Swami  •  Sep 11, 2015 @2:06 pm

    goatherd.. I’ve had the experience of having a vivid recollection of some events that when I’ve tried to reconcile those recollections with a timeline I realised that there was no way possible I could have experienced that event. What’s freaky about that is the clarity of the memory to an event that I never could have been part of.
    If anything it showed me that the mind can construct a vivid false memory that can’t be distinguished from an actual true memory. It’s closely related to a deja vu experience. Sometimes I experience memories of experience or understandings that makes me think I’ve lived another parallel life because I can’t understand how I can know what I know so clearly without ever having experienced it.
    OK. enough!.. I’m gonna take my meds.

  8. buddhasteps  •  Sep 11, 2015 @3:07 pm

    Having come from a solid Southern, Confederate background, I can see both sides of this one having to do with the Confederate flag. This whole thing is just another bubble of political bullshit. Having ancestors who fought for the Confederacy because they were from the South and believed in their lifestyle, (mostly not involving slaves at all)I can see where these poor but honest men came from. Slavery is awful and that was a part of it, too.
    Can we not honor them and also hate slavery? I think so, even if one of my ancestors owned a slave and honored him in his will. It’s a tangled thing.

  9. joanr16  •  Sep 11, 2015 @3:41 pm

    buddhasteps – the Lost Cause was lost 150 years ago. People who still cling to the Confederate flag are clinging to an antebellum world in which white human beings owned, abused, and exploited the lives and labor of black human beings. The Confederacy was built on the evil of slavery, a war was fought because of it, the Confederacy lost the war. Game over. I’m white but I totally understand the deep offensiveness in displaying the Confederate flag. There are no degrees or niches by which or in which it should be acceptable anymore. Historically and morally, it really is that easy to understand.

  10. goatherd  •  Sep 11, 2015 @5:02 pm

    I’m not saying that people descended from those who fought for and lived in the South should hang their heads in shame. But, in this particular case, my friends’ arguments were not very convincing. By contrast I have a few friends in the meatworld, who are very knowledgeable about local history and the Civil War. They are proud of their southern heritage too, but, I suspect that they would have made stronger arguments.

    The point is really not about the CBF, it’s about how and why we construct and cling to narratives. We’re not searching for truth as much as we’re maintaining a means of relating to the world and gripping a sense of who we are.

    My grandfather was a cossack. By most accounts they were not very pleasant people to be around. But I remember him as a rugged sort who was an amazing horseman, could do acrobatic dances and could down a glass of whiskey without batting an eye. He left Russia as a young man, but, he might have done some bad things, even some horrible things. But, there is no way to know that, and I don’t particularly want to know. The narrative gives me a sense of the struggle that my ancestors faced, a sense of their history. I am a pretty boring person, so it adds a bit of color. But, there is precious little truth to it. At certain times in my life it was important to me, now, not so much, but, the truth that I do search for doesn’t have much to do with me or my heritage.

    Swami, I had a similar “memory” of a wedding that I attended in my childhood, I swear I can remember it vividly, but, I have it on good authority that I wasn’t there. I guess the most famous implanted memories stem from the McMartin School investigation. That whole affair was pretty chilling. Also, evidently, the more we recount a memory, the less accurate our description becomes. Our minds are due for a factory recall.

  11. paradoctor  •  Sep 11, 2015 @5:14 pm

    I note with gratitude that on this 9/11, we have spared ourselves a defeat celebration. Nationalist masochism doesn’t appeal to me.

  12. dianne  •  Sep 12, 2015 @6:23 am

    I remember the terrible day, of course. But I also remember seeing a picture of GWB holding hands with the Saudi prince and giving him a big kiss. I remember the stories of the bin Ladin families being spirited out of the country under the cover of the State Dept. when no one else was allowed to fly. I remember thinking where was Norad – how was the Pentagon attacked? Why were planes even still in the air almost an hour after the Towers came down.
    I doubt there will ever be an answer to my questions, at least not in my lifetime.

  13. moonbat  •  Sep 12, 2015 @10:56 am
  14. Swami  •  Sep 12, 2015 @2:57 pm

    I read an interesting article yesterday about the problem teachers are now faced with in teaching their students about 9/11. Seems there is no concrete narrative established beyond the dry factual events because critical thinking has fallen by the wayside due to the massive amounts of rightwing bullshit pumped into the battle to form a dominant narrative. As it stands now, the predominant narrative for the reason why 9/11 occurred is that Islam is an evil religion and they hate us for our freedoms.
    That doesn’t quite work for me because it’s my nature to look for complexity in situations where simplicity is sufficient.Maybe I should heed the Alcoholics Anonymous slogan of Keep it Simple….like George Bush manages to do.

  15. Swami  •  Sep 12, 2015 @2:57 pm

    I read an interesting article yesterday about the problem teachers are now faced with in teaching their students about 9/11. Seems there is no concrete narrative established beyond the dry factual events because critical thinking has fallen by the wayside due to the massive amounts of rightwing bullshit pumped into the battle to form a dominant narrative. As it stands now, the predominant narrative for the reason why 9/11 occurred is that Islam is an evil religion and they hate us for our freedoms.
    That doesn’t quite work for me because it’s my nature to look for complexity in situations where simplicity is sufficient.Maybe I should heed the Alcoholics Anonymous slogan of Keep it Simple….like George Bush manages to do.

  16. Tom_b  •  Sep 12, 2015 @7:21 pm

    “As it stands now, the predominant narrative for the reason why 9/11 occurred is that Islam is an evil religion”.

    I doubt any teacher could say that in front of a classroom without being (justifiably) disciplined. Why not keep it real simple: 19 psychotics took over airplanes and killed a lot of innocent people? Sadly, the “killed a lot of innocent people” part happens quite often in our society (Holmes, Colorado). Psychosis is psychosis whatever your religion or belief system.

  17. maha  •  Sep 12, 2015 @9:24 pm

    I doubt they were actual psychotics — a psychotic’s thoughts are too disorganized to have pulled off 9/11 — but they were definitely fanatics.



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