Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Synecdoche, New York

Today is September 11th and there are all kinds of posts I could write.

I could say how over here in Europe we've put it behind us, got a life, and moved on. ("Daddy, what happened on 9th November?") But this isn't that post.

I could point out that today is the anniversary of the CIA-backed coup that overthrew (and murdered) Salvador Allende and replaced democracy in Chile with vicious dictatorship for more than 16 years; that it's the anniversary of William Wallace's defeat of the English at Stirling Bridge, of Marlborough's victory at Malplaquet, of Cromwell''s entry into Drogheda, of the abandonment of the attempted invasion of Russia by Charles II of Sweden. I could say how every one of those events is of greater historical significance than the business with the planes. But I'm not doing that one today either.

I could go off on a rant about how 9/11 was used as an excuse to launch the "War" on "Terror", a vast piece of human folly which has earned a place well up the league table of those episodes of mass slaughter which stain human history. Not today though.

So am I going to post about the manufactured controversy over the Park 51 Islamic centre in Manhattan? Maybe, but not here.

It was, though, the faux-outrage over the "desecration of Ground Zero" by idiots like Rudy Giuliani and Pamela Geller that made me stop and think. Every time we hear about 9/11, the image we see is of the twin towers burning, or perhaps the one with the metal ribs of the WTC sticking up through the ruins. Or we see the film of people jumping, or the clip of the second plane hitting the tower. And I thought, what is missing from this picture?

Well, omitted entirely are the 184 dead in the Pentagon:



Not to mention (and hardly anyone does) the 40 dead from Flight 93:



The motto on that memorial, "We Will Never Forget" seems sadly ironic in view of the way in which the New York attack has come to mean, not simply journalistic shorthand for the days' events, but the whole story. (Which is one of the meanings of "synecdoche." Charlie Kaufman was simply ahead of his time.) I assume that for those who live in Washington, or Pennsylvania, or who lost family members in either of those crashes, the totality of 9/11 is still remembered, but take a look at today's news coverage and then see whether you think New York has carried out its own hijack of the world's sympathy and grief.

So I'm dedicating this post firstly to the 224 victims of 9/11 who did NOT die in the Twin Towers. Not so much Ground Zero as Ground One, and Ground Two.

Another group of 9/11 victims (partly overlapping with those 224) airbrushed out of history is the Muslims. Their families not only have to put up with media neglect, but have to live in a climate of Islamophobic hatred brought about by the very thing that killed their loved ones.
I once commented on a thread about the Park 51 centre to the effect that a mosque would hardly be disrespectful when you consider the many Muslims who died in the WTC. I had some ignorant oaf actually respond to the effect that the only Muslims who died in the attack were the hijackers. Now THAT is stamping on the memory of the victims. This post is also dedicated to them.

And finally, the whole "Ground Zero" business is not exactly sensitive to the feelings of the survivors and families of those who died at the World War Two originals:




To be fair, a number of commenters on threads discussing the Park 51 project have mentioned the tastelessness of the appropriation of the label by New Yorkers such as Giuliani. And while researching for this post I discovered that in an example of DoD black humour, the space in the middle of the Pentagon was colloquially referred to by staff there as "Ground Zero" back in the 1960s, because they figured it was probably programmed into a bunch of Russian and Chinese ICBMs. Perhaps when people start wittering on about the "Ground Zero mosque" I should respond with "they're building a MOSQUE in the middle of the PENTAGON?"

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Might be a good place for one, as a reminder that the world is not all the same

 
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