Friday, September 19, 2003

Whose 9/11 is it Anyway? 

Last week Brett Evans checked in with his report on Amiri Baraka’s reading in New Orleans. There’s no way Baraka could get away with appearing anywhere on September 10 without reading Somebody Blew Up America. I’m not terribly interested in re-opening the debate about Baraka’s intentions. Two years after the disaster of 9/11, one poem (& maybe only one) on the subject grabs me- a kind of unwitting answer poem sent back up north from New Orleans.

Andrei Codrescu’s 9/11 with Allen Ginsberg in Mind is as personal as it is political. Ginsberg is in his mind & in his ear, with an obvious rhetorical nod to Fall of America. He treats 9/11 as its own entity, not simply a date, event or excuse. He speaks to it as if it is its own character- not asking “who knew” beforehand, but reporting back on the aftermath. This history is much more interesting, maybe because it’s still wide-open & subject to change.

Of course he calls out the old/new right & the Cold Warriors for the New American Century. Of course he calls out Fox News exploitation and the Administration power grab, which are ingredients of most poems addressing the subject. But then:

9/11, I felt bad for you when the Lefties crowded you from the
other side with their guilt-filled jaws of I told you so,
and their eternal excuses for the wretched exotics of the
world whose suffering they experience in their marble-
topped kitchens between arguments about what wine to
serve with the wild rice! And I wept for you again when
soured professors who missed the collapse of commie
fascism in 1989 descended on you like rabid wolverines led
by Noam Chomsky whose teethmarks are all over the
zero ground of American academia!

Wow. I’m a Lefty. Am I one of these people? There haven’t been many wild rice & wine dinners lately at 260. But I’m asking myself, have I been a rabid wolverine? Have I used this event to air my general disgust with this system-at-large? I want to say no. But I can also say that I know some folks that fetishize exotic fundamentalisms, including despotic monstrous acts, if it is a (real or imagined) strike against Empire. While the great majority of anti-war protesters I met were more-or-less everyday Americans outraged by GW, I’ve also marched against the war in Iraq with Milosevic supporters & East Bloc apologists. Do these “hate America” types exploit September 11 to advance their own political agenda?

Of course they do. The bad news is, so have I. Sometime in the past year, it became a push & pull- did Iraq have anything to do with the bombing, or didn’t they? My conclusion was that they didn’t. George II used the WTC attack as an excuse for Imperial expansion. With unavoidable regret, I felt compelled to use it as an exposition of the regime’s motives. Back & forth. Back & forth.

Post-September 11, I’ve charted this Administration’s every dirty trick. But what I’ve forgotten for too long is the gravity of the sorrow two years ago. I’d forgotten the enormous empathy of the most of the world. I’d forgotten that in the two week window between the bombing & Bush’s speech before Congress, America was a sad, but intensely beautiful place. Andrei Codrescu does maybe the most important job a poet can- to go beyond the political, & re-introduce the humane. He closes with:

9/11, I can barely remember you & I’m sorry

Frank Sherlock

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