I hoped once that as the years went by, it would be easier for me to commemorate 9/11. Perhaps at some point, it will be, but writing for myself, I find that each anniversary is tougher to go through than the last one was.
I don’t know why this is the case. Thankfully, I lost no one I knew in the terrorist attacks, and the people I love and care for lost no one whom they knew. I should be protected by emotional distance. And yet, when one hears and reads the stories of others, when one sees again the images of the day, it becomes impossible to divorce oneself from the nightmare that was visited upon us ten years ago today.
I am sure that the sensation of being bound in grief with others, even though 9/11 did not take anyone from me who was close to me, is a sensation that others similarly situated feel. It is an emotion that makes us human. It is an emotion that makes us good as well. The Persian poet Sa’adi put it best:
Of One Essence is the Human Race,
Thusly has Creation put the Base.
One Limb impacted is sufficient,
For all Others to feel the Mace.
The Unconcern’d with Others’ Plight,
Are but Brutes with Human Face.
Fortunately, brutes are few and far between. But they are out there. And they, along with their lesser cousins, make one wish the Internet were never created.
Let’s start with those lesser cousins, the ones who wish fervently for nothing more than historical ignorance, believing it to indeed be one of the highest forms of bliss. I hesitate to call these people “brutes,” since I have a hard time viewing them as being actively evil. Instead, I call them the Poor Little Darlings (hereinafter referred to as “the PLDs”). I can’t know what’s in their minds and hearts, but if you put a gun to my head and forced me to answer, I would say that the driving emotion of the PLDs appears to be less malice, and more great discomfort regarding the need to preserve a historical memory via solemn commemoration. When 9/11 anniversaries come around, one can recognize the PLDs quite easily. They get on Twitter, and write nonsense like this:
Am I the only one who is completely dreading the coming orgy of 9/11 commemoration?
Personally, I wouldn’t characterize 9/11 commemorations as “orgies,” seeing as how orgies–at least those that are properly designed and implemented–are said to be delightful events, whereas commemorations for the dead are, you know, not the kind of happy-happy-joy-joy occurrences that one revels in (at least if one is not a moral monster). But while Michelle Goldberg’s pixilated flatulence exasperates me, it doesn’t anger me. The classic PLD appears to not know any better than to write the kind of thing that Goldberg writes, and I am sure that he/she doesn’t mean anyone any ill. He/she just doesn’t seem to like thinking especially deep thoughts for fear that those thoughts may make him/her sad, and stressed. And so, he/she tries to plug his/her ears, shut his/her eyes, and asks that we not commemorate, lest we become participants in an “orgy.”
I have no earthly clue whether Michelle Goldberg lost anyone close to her in the 9/11 attacks. For her sake, I hope not. God forbid that she did. But if she did, I would have even more trouble thinking that taking one single day out of the year to remember loved ones lost–and all those whom we didn’t know, but who had no business being on the receiving end of murderous thoughts and plans–would amount to “an orgy.” I know that different people grieve in different ways. But still . . .
Nevertheless, if one wishes to look for brutes, one needs to look past Michelle Goldberg’s determined efforts to see and hear no acts or expressions of remembrance, and look instead to the ever-appalling Paul Krugman. I don’t know why it should be surprising that the 9/11 commemorations are “oddly subdued”; again, it’s not as though we are participating in an orgy of any kind, and past 9/11 commemorations have not been characterized by a prevalence of sex, drugs, and/or rock and roll. The best explanation for why the commemorations are “subdued”–though they are no more “subdued” than past commemorations were–is that (a) it has been a decade since 9/11, and ten years means something particularly important to us; and (b) we are remembering nearly 3,000 innocents who died in a single day, and we are saddened anew by the memory.
As Sa’adi noted, that collective sadness, this ability to feel the sadness of others, and to give expression to our sympathy, our empathy, and our grief makes us humans. And Paul Krugman’s inability to perceive it, his willingness–either due to moral myopia, or to an eager desire to give himself to the cause of repulsive propagandizing–to characterize our “subdued” state to the supposed “shame” that the country allegedly feels for not thinking exactly as Paul Krugman has thought for the past ten years makes him the archetypal brute. Allegedly, “in its heart, the nation knows” that Paul Krugman is super-correct about everything, and for the sin of not having listened, the nation is ashamed. And if you don’t believe in that theory, just ask Paul Krugman; he’ll be the first to tell you that you should buy into it with all of the dark thoughts you can muster.
This is a family blog, and so, I make sure not to cuss a blue streak when writing here. As a consequence, it will be impossible for me to use the only words in the English language that have so much as a candle’s chance in a cyclone of expressing the disgust, revulsion, and outrage that any decent individual ought to feel when reading Krugman’s words. How very ironic that the pundit who decries the lack of unity in the post-9/11 world should contribute so mightily to the sense of division that we are experiencing with his divisive and revolting thought that today should primarily be a day dedicated to attacking Paul Krugman’s enemies. How very egocentric of him to try to turn September 11th into “Why Paul Krugman Was Right” Day, with no cogent argument anywhere within fifty miles of his post for why the day should be re-branded as Krugman wishes it to be. “Brute”? The word will have to do to describe what Krugman is, though there certainly are other words I can think of to describe him.
Contrast Krugman’s boorish, egocentric, and depraved writing with the words and actions of the sitting Vice President of the United States:
Biden said he also wanted to recognize “a man responsible for bringing our country together at a time when it could have been torn apart, for making it clear that America could not be brought to her knees, and helping us stand tall and strike back — President George W. Bush.”
“In the darkest hour of our generation, your voice and leadership, Mr. President, helped us find our way,” Biden said of Bush. “And for that, you deserve our gratitude for a long, long time.”
I am sure, of course, that the Vice President’s words will cause Krugman anew to bemoan the supposed inability of the Obama Administration to be tough on Republicans. I am equally sure that Joe Biden, for all of his malapropisms, and his oh-my-God-is-this-man-really-just-a-heartbeat-away-from-the-Presidency inducing moments, is an infinitely better spokesman for America than Paul Krugman can ever hope to be. This, of course, is because for all of his faults, the Vice President doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and he showed appropriate grace and oodles of gentlemanly behavior in genuinely trying to unify the country through our 9/11 commemorations.
As for Krugman, what John F. Kennedy once said about Richard Nixon applies: “No class.”
I harbor hope that someday, the PLDs will wise up. Krugman, I am confident, will remain a ghastly figure. But for both the PLDs, and for Krugman, here is the country’s true voice. The one they seek to silence:
And at the risk of engaging in an “orgy of 9/11 commemoration,” one more:
If you feel the pain of the narrators, you are not a brute. If you don’t, there may be a job waiting for you at the New York Times. And if you just can’t be bothered to listen, then go on Twitter and whine. I am sure there is someone out there shallow enough to take you seriously.
UPDATE: Krugman doubles down, and continues to mislead. Myths to the contrary notwithstanding, there is no evidence that the Bush Administration lied “the nation into the invasion of Iraq,” and independent bipartisan commissions have dispelled such a claim. Additionally, there is no evidence that “people who made speeches, then feathered their own political or financial nests, were exalted along with – and sometimes above – those who put their lives on the line, both on the evil day and after,” except in Krugman’s own fantasy world. At best, Krugman can only link to a slanted post that informs us that Republicans believed that the handling of the War on Terror would be an electoral issue. Shocking! Except that, of course, it wasn’t; it is only natural that the War on Terror would be a subject for discussion during post-9/11 elections, and there is nothing particularly scandalous about the fact that Republicans believed that they had a good record to present to the American people. Much the same rhetoric was heard from Democrats in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden. I mean, is it really necessary to recount all of the talk from Democrats telling us about how Barack Obama’s re-election campaign would benefit from the fact that Osama bin Laden had finally been hunted down and killed?
So, I think we can all be spared the whining about “political exploitation and intimidation,” especially from a pundit who has yet to apologize for shameless conspiracy theorizing that proved to be laughably off-base.
ANOTHER UPDATE: But if you insist on reading about “political exploitation and intimidation,” be sure to read this. I am betting, of course, that Paul Krugman will have nothing whatsoever to say about this brand of intimidation. I have to assume that he’s just not “ashamed” that people could behave the way Professor Howland reports that they behaved.