Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 Thoughts

Some 9/11 Thoughts

Maybe this is an obligatory thing for a person who has the soapbox that is a blog, I don’t know.  I’m not really planning on doing anything commemorative (in fact, if I don’t get some grocery shopping in before I need to go to work, I think I’d like to play videogames and pretend the world doesn’t exist for a while). 

Ten years ago, as I recall, I was living with my parents in Arizona and was going to a two-year college trying to finish up an associate’s degree in graphic design.  I had just been in and dropped out of the U.S. Air Force the year before.  (I joined up because I really wanted a further education than what I could afford/get money for – you would be surprised at how few scholarships exist for people aspiring to arts degrees, at least back then).  I slipped through the cracks regarding grants – wasn’t poor *enough* to qualify for any, plus my only “minority” status was “female,” which didn’t seem to count for much unless I was a mother returning to school, which I wasn’t.  Friends of mine had joined the military, which helped them with their educational funding and got them away from their families – and I was desperate to do both at the time.  I wound up being discharged out of basic training because of mental un-fitness – I couldn’t take the conformity and it led to things and anyway they decided I wasn’t a good match.  So much for my patriotism, but I felt like I’d dodged a bullet.  (Worried for my friends, though).

Anyway, I’d awakened to a day when I’d expected to go to my classes – Multimedia and Graphic Design II – I remember them, rolled over in bed wanting to get more sleep. My mother, who was watching the morning news on television in the living room (she was an insufferable morning person while I was the opposite), told me something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center.  I thought it was some sort of weird freak accident with some small plane piloted by some idiot doing something stupid and went back to bed, figuring I’d hear a stupid story later on the evening news.  I wanted more SLEEP before having to make the 45 minute journey (we lived in the middle of nowhere) to class, DAMMIT. 

Then I hear someone (Mom, Dad, I forget who, think it was Mom) shout from the living room “THEY GOT THE PENTAGON!”  Okay, that got me out of bed – zipping out of bed to see what was going on.  Learned that the plane that hit the WTC was a fully-loaded passenger jet, heard stuff about people jumping out of the tower (I felt sick), saw the other jet plow into the other tower on live TV and said “I think the other one just got hit” and my Mom said “I think they were just replaying footage of the one tower,” and it turned out I was right.  My older brother was there and said something about how I should be glad that I didn’t make it in the military because there’s definitely going to be a war now and everyone on the bases was no doubt in lockdown-panic mode.  I remember my Dad’s commentary on the Pennsylvania plane that was still in the air but known to be piloted by the terrorists, how it was going to be shot down and whatever happened, all those poor people on board knew they were going to die. 

I wound up finding out schools were still in session, so I went to class.  I avoided my usual driving route, which would have taken me past Luke Air Force base, and took a long way. (As I recall, I was driving a white, ’91 Chevy S-10 at the time.  My guy and I have humorous photo of the beast being mock-destroyed by me with a shovel, taken before we set out for my move to Pennsylvania because that little truck caused me more problems… anyway…)  I remember having my regular (rock, alternative) radio station be nothing but news, so I’d turned to the Christian-rock station I used to listen to religiously (har, har), that I hadn’t listened to in a long time (despite still being a regular churchgoer then).  Said station was running a lot of its regular programming, as the announcer in a break said that they wanted to be a break for people from all the horrible news for people who needed such a break.  I can’t remember whether I’d turned away from it because I got sick of the platitudinous music or just because, at the time, I was more in the mood to be a news-junkie than to escape. 

The population at my college was sparse, but classes went as usual.  My Multimedia teacher turned the radio he had in his classroom off and we all learned how to do channel-selection in Photoshop or something and worked on our projects.  I can’t remember whether my Graphic Design II teacher scolded me for being late to class again or if she was surprised at me being uncharacteristically on-time.  As I was driving home, I thought about finding the nearest blood bank before hearing on the radio that they were only looking for the rare and especially useful types of blood.  I’d known from donating blood at drives in the past that I had the most common and least-useful kind there is, which is good for me if I ever need blood, but is not as good for my helping others, apparently. 

I remember going home and trying to take a nap because I wanted to escape the world.  I also remember going to a fandom message board – Team Rocket Headquarters (I enjoyed Poke’mon at the time and liked the villains from the anime) and talking about things and seeing if people there were okay since there were a lot of East Coasters at the board and the founder was a New Yorker.   I seem to remember friends at the message board all being okay.  My guy now owns the remains of TRHQ2 right now, but I am loathe to go back there because I consider my time spent there to be when I was in my stupid-era and I’m not sure I can ever make up for all the stupid things I said to people there.   I also remember hearing on the news that evening that a poor Sikh man in Phoenix got shot to death in his store by a guy who thought he was Arab/Muslim and was trying to “avenge America.” 

I was far away from it all.  I lived in Arizona – I didn’t personally know anyone who was involved – no deaths touched me.  In fact, I remember a few days after the fact AIMing with a friend I had at the time who introduced me to her other friend who’s father was missing and I basically got yelled at and told I was trash because I was alive and apparently shouldn’t have been living because I wasn’t suffering as much as she was and was just some stupid Arizonan living far away.  Then I felt horrible for daring to be alive.

Too many things have changed for me in the last ten years for me to even want to list, but some things haven’t.  Back then, I was a 22 year old failure still trying in life and reaching for dreams just out of my reach.  Today, I am a 32 year old failure still trying in life and reaching for dreams just out of my reach (though I’m with someone who supports my dreams and is also reaching for his own).  I did get my associate’s degree and worked at places as a graphic designer, but it was all short lived because of other issues in my life.  I’m living in the East now.  My political views have gone from leaning Right to leaning Left (not just because of the move), though I remain the fierce Independent that I always was – I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drummer. As far as 9/11 issues… I’ve been all over the board, alternately patriotic and pacifistic, so whatever view you’ve got, I’ve probably had it. 

The one thing I’ve learned, perhaps, is a sad lesson.  It is this:  That sometimes/often, a tragedy isn’t about the victims so much as it is about symbolism.  Sometimes, the victims might even get screwed by the symbolism.  I have seen 9/11 *specifically* be used to promote and justify everything from torture to selling stuff.  I have to wonder how many people who died/were hurt in the events, if they could speak/were listened to would be angry over being made martyrs for causes they never believed in. 

A while back, there was a series of boards/communities I used to go to – the base of the community was fandom/geekery but there were serious boards. I don’t go there anymore (haven’t even given them a nostalgia-look in over two years) because I just never belonged there in the first place.  I remember, however, having sympathy for one person there who talked of 9/11.  She was a New Yorker who’d seen the smoke and stuff happening and she did a little rant about how she was so sick of the Southern/Republican/Inbred Redneck/Conservative “types” she hated using 9/11 for their own agendas or even mourning the victims because “These were the people who were calling us all Soddomites on 9/10.”   Whether she is right or wrong in general attitude, it doesn’t matter, she had a point. 

I remember reading a news article on Muslim-American victims of 9/11, people who weren’t terrorists, but were people just going about their jobs and how their families have suffered and struggled to get their death benefits and to get them properly memorialized and so forth….

And then there’s the thing that comes up often – the ardent anti-theist crowd who probably have been upset that we haven’t yet created a world where we’ve Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions for a long time using 9/11 as a soapbox.  (Note I didn’t say “atheist” – I think there’s a difference between atheist and anti-theist, though the distinction isn’t always made).  It’s not like they don’t have a point, really.  People taking something that is essentially subjective, intangible and unproven/beyond science and treating it like an objective that direct-orders folks to do bad stuff through a human who claims a greater touch with the subjective-thing is pretty damn scary.  I can understand the perspective of “We’d all be safer if we just got rid of it all” (in the same way as I can understand the perspective of people who’d think we’d all be safer and better in morals if we “All just followed the one subjective thing we know to be right!” ). While their point is understood, some of them (both on the Internet and prominent speakers) --- it’s just, something in me wants to shout “It wasn’t just non-believers who died in those towers!!!!”  The way I see some very angry people rant about the whole thing on the Internet, you’d think they thought that none of their “enemy,” were wiped out.  Maybe some people think that they’re Crusaders (har, har) for them, as well, on the grounds that “even though they were among the worthless religious, religion killed them.”  However, in the end, I don’t think that many of those dead would have wanted to be martyrs *against their own faiths,* which they probably felt to be an important part of themselves, at least not any more than an atheist would want his/her death to be used to promote a religious soapbox.

Hell, it doesn’t even matter if people who think, for world peace and the FUTURE, that we “all need to be atheists/Christians/Republicans/Rastafarian accountants/etc.” are actually *right* - the point is, that the people who *weren’t already* when they died probably didn’t want to be martyrs for such a cause.      

Those are pretty much my thoughts on the whole thing.  Life was crazy back then, life is crazy now, a lot has changed and hasn’t changed… and, in the end, if I ever die in a terrorist attack or other mass tragedy, if you can, please at least try not to make me a martyr for a cause I don’t believe in.  For the record, my politics are always in flux, so what they are at any given time is anyone’s guess, DO NOT TORTURE ANYONE FOR MY SAKE, EVER.   I’m not “churchy” anymore, but a basic faith is important to me (even if it might be the thing that makes me worthless), and any wars fought in my name should be fought with foam weapons made by NERF.  I know none of this is possible in such a harsh, violent, selfish world, though. 

I do, however persist in dreaming of a world where there is no killing and all wars are fought with NERF swords where victory is determined by whichever side is the first to capture the live miniature poodle that’s been unleashed upon the battlefield.   I’ll continue to dream.

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