starlady: ((say it isn't so))
[personal profile] starlady
This past spring, history—in the shape of a Navy SEAL team—seemed to provide the era with some closing punctuation. The death of bin Laden, coupled with the events of the Arab Spring, augured at least the possibility of a new age. Violent Islamism no longer seemed inevitable or indomitable. Events in North Africa and the Middle East promised, at the very least, a powerful alternative to both stagnant authoritarian governments and Islamist terror. There is no doubt that great struggles lie ahead—struggles among and within liberal modernity, religious fundamentalism, tribalism, and remnants of the old regimes—but little hope of human liberty ever resided with the regimes of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, or Muammar Qaddafi, to say nothing of Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian mullahs, or, indeed, the Saudi royals.

But, for all the recent moments of promise, this tenth anniversary is a marker, not an end. It is a time to commemorate, consider, and reconsider. A decade later, we pay tribute to the resilience of ordinary people in the face of appalling destruction. We remember the dead and, with them, the survivors, the firemen and the police, the nurses and the doctors and the spontaneous, instinctive volunteers, the myriad acts of courage and kindness. A decade later, we also continue to reckon not only with the violence that bin Laden inflicted but with the follies, the misjudgments, and the violence that, directly or indirectly, he provoked—the acts of government deception, illegal domestic surveillance, “extraordinary rendition,” “enhanced interrogation,” waterboarding.

-- David Remnick, "When the Towers Fell", The New Yorker


Or, have this poem, by way of [personal profile] kaigou:


Martín Espada: "Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100"
for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with the shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook's yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.

Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana,
Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
Alabanza.
Praise the kitchen in the morning,
where the gas burned blue on every stove
and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
Alabanza. Praise the busboy's music, the chime-chime
of his dishes and silverware in the tub.
Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
who worked that morning because another dishwasher
could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza.

After the thunder wilder than thunder,
after the booming ice storm of glass from the great windows,
after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in Fajardo,
like a cook's soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
about the bristles of God's beard because God has no face,
soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
Alabanza I say, even if God has no face.

Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan to Kabul
two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.



Every September, without fail, no matter where I am, these blue skies and a certain cast of light make me think, "World Trade Center weather," and if the skies aren't blue, I think how they're not World Trade Center weather--and I wasn't even there. But I was closer than most other people around the world, close enough to resent the appropriation of those events and their meaning personally, however absurd that may seem. If the past ten years are any indication of what memory, unchecked, can do, no, I don't want to remember. But I can't forget, and even if I could, no, I wouldn't want to do that either. I hope it rains in New York on Sunday; it will make no difference. Memory is dangerous, but history--what we tell ourselves about the past--is no less perilous.
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