Friday, September 11, 2009

The end of 9/11: ii. The Bonfire of the Vanities.

i. Well, at least we're all feeling.

"United we stand."

"Never forget. Never again."

"What the fucking fuck?!"

"I knew Arabs were fucking subhuman animals. Fucking kill them all. Before they kill us. Shit, kill all the other goddamned Mulsims while you're at it."

On that day, by 2PM on the East Coast, pretty much everyone in the country was on the same page. They were feeling a lot of really strong emotions, emotions they'd never felt as Americans before. Emotions they would never imagined they would feel. The exact thoughts varied, of course, but everyone had a several emotions in common. Shock. Fear. Despair. Rage.

But, finally, we were feeling.

ii. What you need right now is a good beating.

Oh, America. You don't know how lucky you were.

Since the crazy Canucks sacked DC in 1812, America had been pretty safe from the depredations of aggressive, or even defensive, foreigners. Oh, yes, Pearl Harbor. But, despite what you think of the tactics of the Japanese on that sleepy December morning in 1941, Pearl was a legitimate military target. And that was pretty much the extent of America's exposure to the ravages of violent conflict. The rest of it was self-inflicted--when we didn't inflict it on each other, we inflicted it on the indigenous peoples who didn't quite agree with our nationalist ambitions.

Here we were in our little bastion of New World dominance--safe to make massive changes all over the world without having any of it bite us in the ass. Oh, what a great thing, to unconsciously embrace a death-driven machine of globalist capitalism and never have it bite you in the ass! America, land of the free, home of the brave--and we never even had to prove our bravery unless we wanted (or were forced) to put on a uniform and become part of the--well, I'll explain that, actually.

Oh, sure, we had to get involved in the World Wars, because the wave of global fail that was Modernism would eventually show up on our doorstep and tear things up. And, because Americans, flawed as we are, are also capable of serious levels of awesome, we succeeded in keeping the worst of the violence out of our country. After that, though, we got so drunk on our own power that we lost our touch--the next thing we knew, the only thing we were really good at anymore was putting a royal beatdown on people in far away lands. Much of our economy dedicated itself to supplying the means of delivering that beatdown. But the reasons for the beatdown began to become confusing.

For those paying attention, though, the beatdowns were necessary because it was the quickest path to wealth for a few. Well, also, because we sorta told another very powerful nation that if they fucked with us we would level their country and murder their people with the power of a million suns. They didn't take very kindly to that and pointed the same power right back at us. That kind of painted us into a corner for a while.

But that nation was worse at that particular standoff than we were, so eventually our beatdown machine was without a clear purpose. But certain other people still had a use for it. Imaginative energy research is hard and expensive--best to just send our beatdown machine around the world so we can grab that bubbling goop out of the ground wherever it might be. This way, we can cart it home and BURN it, because burning it results in fantastic wealth. For a few, anyway. If we scatter a few crumbs of it to the rest of America and ply them with mindless entertainment (a lot of which centers around the worship of death and the subjugation of female sexuality), we can probably keep this up for some time.

What if the people who live near the sources of the bubbling goop decide they want to be fairly compensated for it? Well, that's no problem--we have the world's best beatdown machine. If anyone gives us any shit about our control of the bubbling goop, we'll send the beatdown machine to give them what-for. That gets boring, of course, and if we use it too much a few Americans start to feel really rotten about it, so we'll also install puppet regimes friendly to our interests so we don't have to constantly administer beatdowns. But, the ever-present threat of the beatdown will be there, and don't you forget it.

iii. The Arabic word for "oops."

Except the best-laid plans of those who wanted the bubbling goop went awry. People didn't much care for the puppet regimes we had put in place to keep them in line. Further, those lands were full of ambitious, exploitative men who had their OWN designs on the bubbling goop. Some of them might have had noble ideas at first--use the proceeds from the bubbling goop to spread the wealth among ALL the people. Oh, shit, well, that sounds like communism, and communism is bad, so we can't have that.

Eventually such men say, "fuck it--how do I seize control of the goop so I can become fabulously powerful at the expense of my own countrymen? Oh, wait, we have this religion everyone in these parts seems to believe in--Islam. Maybe we could use that as a tool to make things very difficult for the Yanks. How do we do that?"

Rather than a global conspiracy (eg, "Al Qaeda"), this movement sort of emerged as a bunch of men in diverse places thinking the same series of thoughts--

Fuck those American assholes and their fucking beatdown machine. We're Muslims! We beat down the entire fucking known world from the west coast of Africa to fucking Indonesia. We would've had Europe, too, had a few things gone a little better for us.

But instead of beating down the world so we can ogle titties and watch football, we do it for the glory of our God. It's not just any God--it's Allah to you, motherfucker. Allah. A word that made Christians shit their pants for centuries. And a phrase, "Allahu akbar!" that, when yelled, made them turn their shit-encrusted backsides to us and run for their lives.

And not only do we now have a common goal that is much more compelling than tits on a screen, a beer in your hand, and a gathering of friends to watch sports rooted in pointless violence--but we're not even racist about it! Yeah, sure, Arabs think they're the shit--but we're not just Arabs. We're Turks. Persians. Many, many Indians. Indonesians. Bosnians. Albanians. Chechens. And so on, and so forth. A billion and a half people of vastly different ethnicities capable of working together for one common goal--glorifying Allah.

We could get by just fine by kneeling on our mats five times a day and getting together for communal prayers every Friday. That glorifies Allah pretty well. But, there's another way Allah likes to be glorified--giving punk-ass infidels like yourself a serious ass-kicking. Allah really likes it when we beat down infidels. You might say it's what we're best at, even though we haven't done it in quite some time. Allah likes it so much he will give us additional eternal rewards, so unlike you, we're quite willing to give up our own individual lives in the process. We'd rather live, of course, but we're going to live on our terms, NOT YOURS. Sending several of you at once to suffer eternal anal rape at the hands of Iblis is definitely worth dying for. If we could get 150 of you for one of us, that would be even better!

Yes, back in the day we had our own royal beatdown machine, and you Yanks have just given us the motivation we needed to put it back together.


What is the Arabic word for "oops?"

iv. The beatdown machine you didn't know about.

It's a beautiful morning up and down the East Coast of America. Disturbing this beauty is the roar of a lot of jet planes. A lot of them. Yes, the sky is teeming with these things.

The jet plane itself is a powerful symbol of the situation I described above. It's not good enough that we can now easily cross our country by land in a few days by burning a few pounds of that goop I was talking about. No, we can burn tons of that goop instead and get you there in a matter of hours! Aren't we fucking awesome? Yes, yes we are.

Why do we need to get there so fast? Oh, no good reason. Well, maybe it's so we can visit our family but not waste a lot of time getting there. See, the men in charge of the goop and everything else don't like it when we have a lot of free time to ourselves. When we get too much of that, we start to think that the world they have created for us kind of sucks, and we can't have that. So, instead, we'll stuff you into this tiny tube filled with jet fuel and you'll be there in a few hours. Yes, of course, there is the small risk that you might instead die suddenly in a ball of fiery death, but, you know, small price to pay for EFFICIENCY.

It wasn't lost on a few people, however, that there was another name for a metal tube with powerful engines, and with tanks full of an explosively combustible chemical. A bomb. It wasn't lost on Tom Clancy--in 1994 he wrote a book called Debt of Honor. It's not a terribly good book so I'll spoil the ending for you--at the end, there was a deranged Japanese airline pilot who was upset at the way the American government had humiliated his nation, yet again. In response, he crashes a 747 full of fuel into the Capitol during the State of the Union Address, destroying nearly the entire government of the United States in one bold stroke. A creative idea, to be sure.

(Clancy's previous book was about Arabs who had the unmitigated gall to blow up the Super Bowl with a nuclear bomb the Israelis lost track of. Oh, silly, silly Tom. Everyone knows that Arabs don't have any balls. Well, at least we knew that until 2 years later, when Arabs took the first whack at the World Trade Center. Oops, I guess you were right, Tom. Certain Arabs are capable of coming here and blowing up our shit. But they're not very good at it. Pretty laughably inept in fact. Stop scaring us.)

So here we are. About 6AM on Tuesday, September 11. Just another day. The economy is not doing so hot, because The Man got a little too obnoxious about offering us services we didn't know we needed. People weren't terribly interested in having pet food shipped to them via UPS by a sock puppet, for instance. Further, we just elected a goddamned Republican--who wants to invest in geeks creating e-commerce gadgets when we can invest in finding more goop and sending in the beatdown machine to defend our access to it?

So, because the economy is in WTF mode, the planes are not very full. And it's also a Tuesday. But they're still flying anyway, because we're Americans, goddamn it, and we'll fly our shiny planes whether they have a reason to be in the air or not. Nineteen Arabs board four rather large jetliners--3 Boeing 767s and 1 Boeing 757. The 767 is a wide-body plane built for hauling large numbers of people from coast to coast, or even to Europe. It's not the largest plane in the world, but it's pretty goddamned big. The 757 is more modest--it hauls an impressive number of people, but not quite as far. When full of fuel, though, both of them make pretty good bombs.

These Arabs are armed with utility knives--"box cutters," some call them. Less than $2 each at any office supply store. With practice, you could easily kill someone with one and threaten others, especially if you scream at them in heavily accented English in an enclosed space with no possible route of escape. But, these men knew they wouldn't have to use them too much. No, the infidels on board these planes would happily go along with their plans until it was too late to react.

You see, in the past, Middle Eastern peoples have grabbed planes to make some kind of a political statement. They land the plane somewhere and use the passengers as hostages to get their way. Because, you know, if they did anything else stupid with it they'd die as well. Most Americans were not aware of the fact that some people from that region had stopped caring about that. If they'd only known.

v. The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Most of you remember The Bonfire of the Vanities as a novel and a movie made from that novel. The name comes from a practice that was popular in late 15th century Italy, the most famous of which occured in 1497.

The closest thing that the late Renaissance had to a hard-core Christian-rock star with millions of devoted fans was a Dominican priest named Girolama Savonarola. Father Giro was so popular that the Florentines made him mayor when the Medici got kicked out by the French. He made people feel GOOD about being Christian. He was so good at it that he got them to burn anything that MIGHT tempt them--you know, things like art, books, fancy clothes, playing cards, mirrors, and so forth. But he got a little too egoistic about things and the Florentines became bored with him. He ended up getting himself executed by the Pope. Bummer.

We don't have too many people like Father Giro anymore, but we do have a few. However, even someone like the good lead pastor of Mars Hill Church wouldn't do something wacky like tell you to burn all your toys. No, fuck that, you should feel GOOD about watching the Seahawks beat down the Raiders, because that's the sort of thing JESUS would do. Just make sure you come to church first and give us 10% of your income and watch our garage band play, OK? I'll even bring the beer.

No, we don't have anyone like Father Giro telling us to burn down all of our temptations. But there are millions of pissed-off Muslims who would like nothing better than to do it for us. And nineteen of them came to our country to do just that.

Three very prominent symbols of our vanity were burned that day. Four jetliners, for instance. Yes, pretty vain all by themselves. But those pale in comparison to the Pentagon--a modern wonder of the world, no less. This huge Modernist structure is the place where all our beatdowns are orchestrated. And that day, they got their own little beatdown. I guess the attackers realized they would need dozens of planes to destroy it, so they just sent the one. They may have had something else in mind, though--more about that in the next post.

But even that little bonfire pales in comparison to the World Trade Center. Those gigantic pillars representing global finance, the ultimate source of American ambition in its most obnoxious and destructive form. Iconic, they were. They anchored one side of the skyline of Manhattan and became very much a part of New York City's self-image. They represented raw, unchallenged American dominance!

Two impacts from nearly-fully-fueled 767s traveling at near the speed of sound, and they were gone. A prominent symbol of our vanity, suddenly consumed in fire.

vi. Horror and fetish.

It's tempting to see as a a good thing the bonfire of three symbols of the system that leads to the internal oppression of Americans and the external oppression of other peoples. Yet, there's a tiny problem. No, really, a serious problem--there were people on those planes, in the Pentagon, and in the World Trade Center. Thousands and thousands of them--and nearly 3,000 of them didn't live to see the next day, much less 2009. They didn't have the luxury of penning a self-indulgent screed from the safety of their suburban Seattle home 8 years later.

No, they died. Some died quickly in the impact. Others jumped 1000 feet to their deaths. Some burned to death. Some slowly suffocated from the smoke generated by the fire. A few huddled in terror on the 106th floor, screaming at a hapless 911 operator for help as they felt the doomed building shake, knowing that in a few seconds they would be crushed under millions of tons of concrete, steel, glass, and the detritus of global capitalism. Others died in the stairwells as they desperately searched for anyone else they could save--just one more, there might be time for one more.

Let's not forget the people on United 93, either. They somehow found out what was going on and realized they had nothing to lose by counterattacking. If anything, the enraged Muslims of the world know that hijacking jetliners and crashing them into things isn't going to work anymore.

Anyway, these people died. Some painlessly, some horribly, some alone and in terror. They had people who loved them. Douchenozzles like Ward Churchill may gleefully call them "Little Eichmanns", but despite their complicity in our oppression, most of them were simply trying to survive and carve out a little comfort for themselves. Besides, we're all complicit. Every single last one of us. Even you, Ward Churchill, you fucking douchebag.

Their loved ones, I'm sure, try to hold on to their memories, but I didn't know any of them. To me, they are just names on a list. I tried to learn as many of their stories as I could, but I really just cannot imagine the way they suffered and their families suffered.

New Yorkers are still reeling from it. The pride of their city--the financial district--viciously attacked, smashed to pieces, hundreds and hundreds of their friends and neighbors dead. The disruption to the economy led to more joblessness and despair, despair that spread throughout the country and touched even me. I have only now recovered from it completely, to be honest.

Yes, 9/11 really fucked us up. Good job, there, Muhammad Atta and your band of inglorious bastards. You really did get 150 of us for every one of you, and you made the rest of us go collectively insane. Not bad for a day's work. Enjoy your 72 virgins or whatever it is you got in exchange for them.

Do we really serve the people who died that horrible day by fetishizing them, though? Do we serve their families by doing that? Do we serve each other? Are we going to make the world better as a result, or are we simply going to provoke more beatdowns on our home turf by angry Muslims? Or, even worse, Mother Nature? Or are we even focusing on the right priorities?

I'll explore that in the final post I will ever make on this subject, which will be the next one.

No comments: