There’s some chatter about this CBS story, in which the reporter asks New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin about the slowness of Katrina cleanup. The Mayor replies, “Thatâ€™s alright. You guys in New York canâ€™t get a hole in the ground fixed and itâ€™s five years later. So letâ€™s be fair.”
Yeah, it was a dumb remark, especially since (as I blogged here) comparing Katrina to 9/11 is comparing apples to oranges.
What an idiot.
Then again, he’s treating Ground Zero with the same respect the rest of the Left does. It ain’t nothing but a hole in the ground to them.
I’d like this jerk to come to New York City and tell the solid majority of lefties who live here that Ground Zero “ain’t nothing but a hole in the ground to them.” I’m sure he’d get some interesting feedback.
I wrote awhile back about 9/11 being an entirely different experience for eyewitnesses and survivors than it was for people who only watched on television. And if you haven’t read John Homans brilliant essay in New York magazine, “The Long Funeral,” be sure to do so. Homans writes,
New Yorkers tended to want to keep 9/11 (â€œit happened to usâ€) for their own, but no one believed that could happen. The grief culture this country has lived in for the past five years began in those spontaneous shrines, but it didnâ€™t end there. Before the week was out, many different interests had moved in to stake their claims on its meaning.
Among those “interests” are righties like the jerk quoted above, who assume Ground Zero belongs exclusively to them. As James Wolcott wrote,
I’m amused, amazed, and annoyed that bloggers thousands of miles away from the actual death and destruction chide the rest of us for “not getting it” and wanting to bury our heads in the sandtrap when, as Sir Lancelot notes, New Yorkers themselves have a saner, wider, calmer perspective as the years pass. And unlike so many of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, New Yorkers don’t have the luxury of or inclination to demonize Arabs and Muslims and hat-tip Michelle Malkin or run sceered every time a couple of Them materialize in our visual field. Every time we step into a cab or enter a store, there’s a good chance that the driver or manager may be Pakistani or Iranian or Iraqi or Palestinian and they don’t represent the Other, they’re fellow New Yorkers, we all have get on each nerves here as best we can, and if we wanted to hang around nothing but white people concerned about their car insurance and those noisy skateboarders who have no respect for private property we never would have moved here in the first place.
“Sir Lancelot” is Lance Mannion, whose blog post on righties and fear is a must-read. Be sure to catch the conclusion.
Back to Homans, and why the Right’s alleged “respect” for Ground Zero is a sham.
Bush and his administration quickly swooped down to scoop up the largest part of the 9/11 legacy. The justified fear and rage and woundedness and sense of victimhood infantilized our political culture. The daddy state was born, with attendant sky-high approval ratings. And for many, the scale of the provocation seemed to demand similarly spectacular responsesâ€”a specious tactical argument, based as it was on the emotional power of 9/11, rather than any rearrangement of strategic realities.
Of course, the marriage of the ultimate baby-down-a-well media spectacle with good old American foreign-policy adventurism was brokered by Karl Rove, who decreed that George Bush would become a war president, indefinitely.
The final military takeover of Manhattan was the Republican convention in August of 2004, with nary an unscripted moment. In the conventionâ€™s terms, New York was less a place than a stage set for a sort of 9/11 puppet show.
The memory of 9/11 continues to stoke a weepy sense of American victimhood, and victimhood, as used by both left and right, is a powerful political force. As the dog whisperer can tell you, strength and woundedness together are a dangerous combination. Now, 9/11 has allowed American victim politics to be writ larger than ever, across the globe. When someone from Tulsa, for example, says, â€œItâ€™s important to remember 9/11 every day,â€ what he means is, â€œWe were attacked, we are the aggrieved victims, we are justified.â€ But if we were victims then, we are less so now. This distorted sense of American weakness is weirdly mirrored in the woundedness and shame that motivate our adversaries. In our current tragicomedy of Daddy-knows-best, itâ€™s a national neurosis, a perpetual childhood.
“The country has made a mess of our grieving,” Homans concludes. Exactly.
Homans also describes the squabbling over what to do with the now-vacant space in lower Manhattan. The early plans were all either ugly, or too grandiose, or too plain, and even among the victims’ families there is no consensus about what should be done to memorialize September 11. Any idea anyone comes up with is quickly vetoed by someone else. And the fact is that no physical memorial could do justice to what September 11 became to the nation even before the dust had settled.
For that reason I wish we could put aside all plans and leave the site alone for another five years, or at least until such time that Washington politicians have stopped using September 11 as a one-size-fits-all rationalization for whatever they want to do. By then our perspective will have shrunk down to a manageable size.