Sunday, September 10, 2006

Something Missing

I saw that Colin McEnroe wrote a short story about 9/11, and at first I didn't want to read it. I've been avoiding this sort of thing. I haven't gone to see 9/11 movies, and I'm not going watch the weirdly voyueristic replay of 9/11 coverage that CNN's going to broadcast. There's too much wrapped up in it, too many raw emotions, too much of what came after.

But I did read it. It's good. Colin writes like I wish I could--simply, yet elegantly. I picked one thing out of it that I'll share with you. It isn't giving so much away to say that the story is about a young woman who is cheating on her lover on 9/11, while he's dying in the World Trade Center. Years later, she's talking with her therapist:
"This nice young man was killed by terrorists. Crazy people got airplanes and flew them into buildings and killed thousands of people, and one of them was Paul. While this happened, you did something you're not too proud of. But it didn't kill anybody. Separate these two things."

"Uh-huh."

"Ego te absolvo. You didn't kill him. You already suffered enough to make up for twenty, two hundred, two thousand crimes like the one you committed. And we don't have a lot of time to spend on it, because you've got a bigger problem. Paul is, forgive me please, the guilt for Paul is like a fractured wrist, and meanwhile you need a heart-lung transplant."

"What do you mean?"

"You're sick in your soul. Very terribly sick. I should probably send you to a psychiatrist who would give you some pills, so you would not be so scared all the time, but the pills will not get into your soul, so you would still be sick. Can you stand to be sick for a little while longer?" (McEnroe)

Somewhere, deep in the farthest recesses of our collective American soul, we're guilty. September 11th was somehow our fault. We dropped the ball. We spent a decade on frivolous pursuits, too absorbed in pleasure, money, sex scandals and stock options that we forgot about the outside world. We were too naive, we elected Bill Clinton, we weren't smart enough, we weren't secure enough, we let too much slide... and we got hit.

We should have seen it coming. Why didn't we see it coming? It's our fault. We need to be fixed, so it won't happen again. We need more security, harsher responses, aggressive foriegn policy, pre-emptive wars, camps in Cuba. We need to change. We have changed.

But the therapist, who is not an American, is right. On September 11th, 2001, crazy men flew airplanes into buildings.

They were mad. It wasn't our fault.

It wasn't. But our souls are still sick. We haven't healed, despite everything we've done. It's still eating at us, still driving us away from who we were before the attacks.
"So," Sponza said when next they met. She was absurdly happy to see him. "What do you want?"

"I want to stop being afraid. I want my stomach not to hurt."

He shook his head. "No, no. That is not what you want. That is just all you can see. (McEnroe)
Where is the way out of our guilt, our fear?

Maybe there isn't one.

Terrible things happen, sometimes for no reason we can understand. In the end, all we can do is beat back the fear, live our American lives, and try not to let the actions of madmen destroy what is best about us.

Work Cited

McEnroe, Colin. "Missing Person." Northeast Magazine (Hartford Courant), 10 September, 2006.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

before 9/11 America was like the middle aged man smoking and drnking awy merrily, until he get a myocardial infraction.

Five years later, he's worried and not happy. Some people tell him to forget about the problem and go back to his old habits. But much as he hates the advice he is getting from his present doctors, he knows he can't go back to how he was living and survive.

Bobby McGee said...

So keeping Bush to heal what Clinton did is analogous to taking up heroin to beat smoking?

Anonymous said...

the folks who back Lamont would like the patient to think nothing's wrong. and the Clinton camp's reaction to ABC seems to indicate an unwllingness to accept a diagnosis for the illness

Bobby McGee said...

Lamont wants the voters to think nothing's wrong? That must be why he says "bloody civil war" and "250 million a day" every chance he gets.

Anonymous said...

so let's just go home and spend the money on oil paintings

TrueBlueCT said...

Anon5:02--

What the heck does Ned Lamont's art collection have to do with the national security debate?

If this is all you can contribute, why don't you clean out your locker. I mean honestly, can you spare the rest of your anonymous drivel? Thanks.

CC said...

I completely reject the concept that it's too soon for 9/11-related material. We need MORE 9/11 movies and coverage, not less. In the case of our latest struggle, we were actually at war for eight and a half year before 9/11 -- first World Trade Center bombing, USS Cole, Khobar Towers, etc. -- but we didn't know it. We must never forget the struggle we are in, for each attack by the enemy is larger in both symbolism and scope.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

>>I mean honestly, can you spare the rest of your anonymous drivel?


I could lead a long and happy life without ever reading another word of your drivel - bank on it.

TrueBlueCT said...

ACR--

If I remember my 'wingers correctly, you're just another one of those small-minded folks who happened to make it up one flight of the economic ladder, yet now think the sure way to secure your "success", is to pull the ladder up behind you...

Trust me, your contempt is nothing as compared to mine.

Anonymous said...

Yeah--wingers are all about screwing the little guy, and contempt--man you ain't seen contempt like a winger stealing from little babies, its' a site to behold!!!

Wingers United Against the Little Man, headquarted in Greenwich, founded by JP Morgan, current leader is Ned Lamont.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

TrueBlueCT said...
you're just another one of those small-minded folks who happened to make it up one flight of the economic ladder, yet now think the sure way to secure your "success", is to pull the ladder up behind you...


I've employed others and been (and am now) employed.

Had business success as well as massive failure due largely to theft.

I tithe.

I fought *hard* to bring an Hispanic female to a congressional race instead of a male WASP despite the fact I am one.

I honor John Brown and respond with a threat of violence to racist remarks and/or actions against others; and I support Israel without posting thinly veiled slurs as you do constantly.

But by all means, carry on.

I have to go help raise money for beds for kids - children can not be placed in foster care without a bed of their own.

But you go right ahead and carry on blogging, please, by all means....

GMR said...

Lamont wants the voters to think nothing's wrong? That must be why he says "bloody civil war" and "250 million a day" every chance he gets.

Does Lamont, or anyone else, believe that if we just leave, there wouldn't be a civil war?

Seriously, those advocating immediate pull-out (which I don't think even Ned really has been advocating), what do you think will happen? What if someone who openly backs terrorism rises to power? Do we go back and take that government out?