Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today's Word—A Moment of Silence

Compelling Narrative:

“The story of the . . . catastrophic intelligence failure that led up to the attacks is told with relish by the authors of The 9/11 Commission Report. Borrowing a technique from the intelligence services, publishers WW Norton refused to confirm or deny to
The Observer whether the report was rewritten by John Grisham or Robert Ludlum to give it some narrative muscle. They claim it was the joint work of the Commission’s Republican and Democrat members.

“But I’d like to know which veteran member of Congress wrote the opening lines: ‘Tuesday, September 11, 2001, dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States. Millions of men and women readied themselves for work.... For those heading to an airport, weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey. Among the travellers were Mohammed Atta and Abdul Aziz al Omari, who arrived at the airport in Portland, Maine.’

Who wouldn’t read on?”

—Martin Bright, columnist, The Observer, 2004 (See complete column.)

Speak up! Feedback and suggestions—printable and otherwise—always welcome. After all, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “There are no false opinions.”

Pease’s Soapbox:

Along with the murders of JFK, MLK and RFK, “the Day Which Will Live in Infamy,” and the “giant leap for mankind,” 9/11 was one of those irrefutably defining moments in the collective American memory. We all remember where we were when we heard, unbelieving, that planes had struck the World Trade Towers. The world truly changed on that day.

On this anniversary, it’s not only worthwhile but essential to remember the event, the politics of hate that spawned it, and the national and global mindset that have resulted from it. Neither war nor terror is a new concept, but the new global political and cultural iteration that grew from 9/11 was and is new, and warps us all.


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  2. The following was written after my moment of silence:

    I was wondering what Prof Pease would put up on this day. I like what he did.

    That's great "narrative muscle," used at the right time. There is definitely a time and a place for narrative, which is usually termed as "fluff." Used at the right time, it goes from "fluff" to "narrative." Used in at the wrong time,-which would mainly just be too often and unwarranted by unmovable human response-it lessens narative's integrity. We need to rely on it to quench the emotion that shoud not go unacknowledged, the emotion that any functioning human being experiences which makes the news piece so it cannot be isolated from emotion. This was one of those moments that called for narrative, and if an audience is priorly drenched (in fluff), they should not be quenched, or receive proper pathos recognition in their longing for it, even if subconsciously.

    I hope that made sense.

    Why is it that we take note of where we were in defining moments? Why is it that we recall so vividly, as if time had courteously slowed down to let our sense catch up. Our senses grasp for comprehension, and the side effect is setting absorbtion.
    For years afterwards, we re-tell the story of the moment we heard a hugely pivotal piece of news... as if that will help us makes sense of the pieces. In reality, unless you were physically there, where we were and what was happening in our personal sphere isn't going to change or ring out any more clues. That's an odd and interesting piece of human nature. We all do it, the memory always seems like it should mean something to us, and yet it doesn't really accomplish anything.

    I, of course, have my own version of where I was. It seems like it means something. Why do I care to re-live it? Is it the adrenaline I felt? Is it the answers I wanted? I don't know, but on September 11, 2001, all the youngsters joined the ranks of the adults, who say, "I remember where I was when [blank happened]." This is one of the ways in which every single individual was affected--not just the people in New York or Pennsylvania, or the families, or people tied to the military, the NYFD, etc. Another way everyone was affected was the rocking we each felt inside of us. Like a traumatic experience, it changes some piece of you. There are emotional white-blood-cells that cradle the jolted piece until the coast is clear, not often leaving for good, but rather a protecting layer of defense tissue. Today we are all modified from what we might have been, because America as we knew it morphed into a new, different America.

  3. "Autobiography" below says America became a different place in 9/11. I agree. But what kind of different place have we become. More frightened. More hysterical. More draconian in our abrogation of the liberties that make this country truly great.

    The press colluded with the Bush Administration--whose stock was saved when the planes hit the Towers and made the "war on terror" and all it has come to mean possible. Journalists, like all human beings, were stunned by the attacks, but that quickly morphed into sycophancy. Afraid to ask the tough questions, the press helped rescue the cynical political poseurs (Bush and Rudy come to mind) and share a large part of the blame for putting us--and the planet--where we are today.

    Citizens--you and me, dear readers--are more to blame. Because we are too lazy to assess the world for ourselves, we abdicate our responsibilities to help guide the people we elect to make decisions for us. Ultimately, we the governed are to blame.