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Non-midnight radio

My husband was clicking around channels in the car, trying to get a bit of information on why the traffic was so heavy on I-285 . . . we thought there might be a chance for a Saturday traffic report on a talk station. I don't know if he had it on WSB or WGST, but we had to wade through listening to Sean Hannity while waiting in vain for a little traffic news (which never came, I might add). Ugh, what a rabble-rouser. I met him once at a party: he seemed like one of those outwardly-perfect blow-dried short men who are inwardly vicious because of their hefty Napoleonic complexes. He constantly interrupted his guest, and I frankly think it's damned irresponsible for someone in the media on the cusp of the 9/11 anniversary to be punctuating every angry sentence with "freedom" and "patriotism" in an attempt to get people worked up, when we are so much more in need of cool, rational analysis. He read part of a commentary by Norman Mailer about "promiscuous patriotism," and while I didn't agree with everything Mailer said, either, I really got that part.

I have always been this way -- it's just me, but carrying a flag does not make you a patriot. Wearing a cross does not make you a Christian. These things are merely external symbols . . . and if you need these reminders so much, then how deep is your faith? How sturdy is your patriotism? Don't get me wrong: I am fully in support of people's right to decorate their cars or themselves with any symbology they like, and as long as the symbol is a reflection of the person's internal commitment, as long as it stands for something real, that's fine. I just don't like the superficiality it suggests -- the idea that patriotism is a trend, or trendy thing. I don't like the lack of endurance that many of the 9/11 bandwagon patriots seem to have . . . they'd already put aside their flags in mid-January, and now they're dusting them off again for this coming anniversary.

Maybe the heart of the problem for me is something my friend Michael Reid and I discussed: it's the lack of incorporation into their lives, and them even judging people for not having some outward symbol. We once sat in the living room and analyzed certain tendencies of Catholics as compared to certain tendencies of Protestants. As I said to him then, I had observed that many Protestants (not all -- this is NOT meant as a sweeping generalization) seemed to view church as something they did on Sunday morning, while I had noticed that many Catholics, both friends and co-workers, seemed to view it as . . . well, almost habitual and mundane -- natural, because it was just a part of their lives that they'd incorporated. Their faith was familiar to them, not exactly something to be revered. It was not a distinct and separate ritual, exactly -- saying a rosary was as much an innate part of their lives as brushing their teeth. I don't know if I'm making sense, here, but Michael understood what I was saying, and there's just a difference, a matter-of-fact acceptance that seems to give so many of them complete comfort and acceptance.

For the record, I am not Catholic, but I can respect and admire that constancy of faith, that knowledge. It's not trendy: it's something you do every day. You don't get it out and dust it off once a week, then stick it back in the drawer.

Getting back to my initial point about 9/11, as I told David in the car today, I feel a vague sense of dread and foreboding about it. It's not that I think anything's going to happen -- it may, or may not. It's more that I don't want to relive it again. I don't want to see the images again: they're already indelibly burned on my mind, and on the minds of many Americans. I don't think I'm alone in this. It's not that I want to forget -- I couldn't forget if I tried. Ironically, about two seconds after I told them this, the announcer mentioned that Laura Bush recommended that Americans, especially younger children, not spend too much time watching the news and seeing the images of the planes crashing into the towers again. I think going back and reliving the shock, the scenes of New Yorkers fleeing through the streets screaming, surrounded by smoke, dust and sirens . . . is probably not something that's exactly helpful or cathartic at this point. And yet, I do feel it is important to make acknowledgement of the day and the event.

I remember last year, shortly after, I participated in a quiet candlelight vigil. I met some of my neighbors for the first time. Maybe I'll just light a candle and stand out on the sidewalk again this year. People have pointed out that more people die in car accidents each year than died in the attacks, which is completely true. It was also just as true with the Challenger incident -- about far more people dying, I mean. But the death toll of either isn't the most important aspect of them: both events were symbolic losses; things that injured the nation's psyche.

Being brutally honest . . . and I'm not usually this open in my LJ . . . but as I told my friend mumpish at Dragon*Con this year, I've been in a bit of a state of avoidance since 9/11. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I have not wanted to watch the news -- I haven't wanted to know what was going on. I just didn't want to see and hear any more for a while. Given the fact that I used to be such an information junkie, this is somewhat significant. I have immersed myself in DAoC, net surfing, or almost anything not having to do with the real news. I cannot any longer count myself as politically aware. Oh, certainly, I know who John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge are . . . but I have certainly not gone out of my way to do so. I will wake back up and reimmerse when I am ready.

I still feel that so many are still in "react" mode, and worse, that would-be demagogues like Hannity are taking advantage of that, stirring up a frenzy instead of trying to reach any state of objectivity. We so desperately need some rational analysis. Not liberal touchy-feely, not rabid right-wing "love it or leave it"-ism, but balance and objective, factual reporting. We need a little truth. We need honesty about what our government does without our consent or approval, and candor about both our strengths and our weaknesses as a nation. We need a little less rhetoric and grandstanding.

A year later, we still don't have bin Laden. A year later, many of the American people do not recognize the enemies within as well as the enemies without. And a year later, many are still very much traumatized, and still too wrenched to look at the situation. I can't decide whether or not it's a good thing that so many of us have the luxury of time to heal in that way: there are people for whom life is so much more immediate. I think it's a good thing, but sometimes I think it keeps us from seeing the simple and pragmatic perspective of those who deal day-to-day with terrorism and survival.

Speaking of Jim at con, on Thursday night, when we got together, he was angry and anguished about the state of America. I am glad that he still has his anger: that he can care and not detach and feel numb, but I am concerned for him that he is not writing. I think he found it a very good outlet, and I would like to see him return to it.

A longer post than I'd planned. And yes . . . I still plan to write about Dragon*Con.

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