An open letter to the dozen or so body-shaven psychopaths who took down the World Trade Center several years back:
Your intention was to frighten and intimidate the most powerful nation on earth by striking its most illustrious and vibrant city. Moreover, you chose to fly hijacked passenger jets into a pair of iconic towers that represented (to you, anyway) the economic power and might of the American way of life.
Almost thirteen years later, and with the so-called 9/11 Memorial open to the public, we can say with near certainty that you have accomplished all you might have dreamed, and more.
You presumed that these attacks would absolutely shatter our sense of invulnerability and turn us away from an embrace of freedom and towards a more guarded, frightened stance that talks about freedom but delivers heavy policing and massive surveillance. You have made us all stand in line and partially disrobe before getting on an airplane. You have caused us to fight a necessary battle that turned into an unnecessary war in Afghanistan; and gave license to a few dark leaders who brought us, via an orchestrated series of treasonable lies, into a disastrous and costly war in Mesopotamia. You killed, therefore, not just thousands at Ground Zero, but thousands more in the field.
You freaked us out so badly that we forgot about trying to progress into a world of betterment for our citizens and focused us instead on measuring everything our citizens want to do against what steps we “must” take against the amorphous threat of “terror” we now presume your compatriots pose. Too often, the citizens lose and so-called “security” wins. We all feel so much better now that our guards wear helmets and flak jackets, and that they have submachine guns at the ready! Not.
Quite pointedly, you have managed to clear a large area of Lower Manhattan and have allowed us to fall victim to our own worst instincts in the creation of an arid, forbidding, defeatist “memorial” that combines both new real estate with inhumanly scaled architecture; and a place of remembrance but not defiance. You have allowed us time enough to worship at two giant holes in the ground; it is almost as if you yourselves had submitted the plans for these ignominious trenches at which we now must forever stare silently. And this after a dozen years of utter disruption in a once-thriving neighborhood that will never again be a part of New York City but only a theme park of mourning and solitude.
I know this because I used to live across the street from Ground Zero and was (thanks again, thou virgin-attended souls) forced over and over to go way out of my way to get anywhere because of construction fences that cordoned off an area larger than the downtown of many a medium-sized city. I find my notions reinforced by a recent New York Times article about the memorial in which it is posited that the place is glum, separate and uninspiring.
You have made it so that we now have a large public space in which (according to the New York Times article) very few behaviors are permitted, and where protests are specifically excluded in contravention of what we used to call the U.S. Constitution but which now, except for Amendment 2, we now might as accurately call the U.S. list-of-gentle-suggestions-to-the-mighty- assuming-we-are-not-interrupting-your-regatta.
I would like to commend you specifically for turning New York from a bold city of incorrectness and ferment into a fortress of fear with a heavy dose of pomposity. New York will not be the same ever, but perhaps it will recover from the blows you struck, and then from the wounds we inflicted upon ourselves during our collective, national nervous breakdown.
My fear is that it may be too late. Prices are so high now that no one without a real stake in the winners’ circle can even hope to survive in New York City; much less take an unpopular stance against the One Percent for fear of being pepper-sprayed, manhandled and shackled while doing nothing violent but for letting the world know one might not be on board with the current, crushingly unfair economic regime.
It is quite remarkable how you got to define our city and our nation in the 21st Century, where we had defined ourselves and the rest of the world in the 20th.
We ought to have been smarter. Perhaps your real triumph was that you gambled we would not be–and turned out to be right.