Before it was The Frozen Zone, it was The East Village, where I called home on 9/11.
I consider it the lucky break I never got in any other aspect of my life. In my love life, I had to overcome innate shyness and pick up the tab on a round of drinks long before I could really afford it; in my living situation, into my 30’s, I had 3 jobs to make rent plus 2 roommates and a dog (the dog wasn’t necessary, but at least she pooped outside instead of leaving the toilet clogged); in my family life, well, who doesn’t struggle to solve the ongoing problem of acid reflux brought on by the messy stew of DNA? The lucky break I’m talking about is that I was living at 17 Saint Marks Place when the planes hit The World Trade Center.
I didn’t watch it on CNN. I didn’t watch it on MSNBC or FOX. I didn’t tune in for updates or commentary or the parade of know-it-alls. I lived it, walking the streets of New York City, contemplating the oppressive scent of burning flesh billowing in dark clouds rising up from Ground Zero which would be a constant source of emotional strain. I spent most evenings on the steps of Union Square Park, lighting candles, gathering with others to feel less alone in the uncertainty.
None of us wanted to retaliate.
What was the point?
We understood instinctively that the maniacs who smashed those planes into those buildings were maniacs and the only people in Afghanistan who were going to suffer were the people on the streets of Kabul in the same way the only people who were suffering in America were the people on the streets of Manhattan. Everyone else was tuning in for their nightly dose of outrage but they had no idea how it actually felt to see people walking around zombie-eyed with pictures of the people they loved who were missing and we knew they weren’t missing but we were willing to go along so they could summon the internal strength to hang on with what little friction their fingers could find before slipping off the edge of despair into the bottomless darkness of impossible sudden loss.
George W. Bush didn’t care. He didn’t win the presidency, he jimmied the lock to the Oval Office, using a credit card given to him in case of emergency by his daddy’s buddies on the Supreme Court. We didn’t know it then but his obstinate approach to the presidency was a foreshadowing of Donald Trump, another president who would lose the popular vote and govern like a toddler. Rich white men get to live out their lives treating the rest of us like the unfortunate children of their nannies, we’re not there because we desire the friendship or understand the circumstances – we’re not equals – these are indentured friendships and even though it might feel good to have access, the access is temporary and it’s shocking when you realize how swiftly it can all be taken away. Children don’t know how to navigate obligation and rich white men don’t know how to take no for an answer.
George W. Bush didn’t win and yet he ascended to the presidency. Within a year, he squandered the surplus, cut taxes, declared war and stood on a pile of rubble at Ground Zero, using the hellfire of catastrophe as a photo op but the stress was too much, he relapsed, going on a 20 year bender with a tab of $2 Trillion Dollars, which if you do the math, comes out to $300 Million a day. Think about that. You can’t. It’s not possible. It hurts too much, the opportunity cost – Health Care For All, Free Education, Reparations, Universal Basic Income, Golden Toilets at the DMV – it’s soul crushing.
Not that he cares what I think or would even notice, but I give George W. Bush a pass. It’s the same thing with Donald Trump. I don’t blame 43, I don’t blame 45, who can blame them, seriously? They’re not in control of their emotions, they’re not in control of their lives, they don’t know how to behave, they don’t know how to act, they’re not men, they’re rich white men whose chronic shortcomings, like smoked paprika, have been cooked into the flavor of the stew.
We gave Dubya a 2nd term. We did that! More white women voted for Trump in 2020 than in 2016. We did that! We looked the other way when Mitch McConnell shafted Merrick Garland. We did that! We marvelled at the political calculus in Barack Obama’s thinking when he ordered a surge in Afghanistan even though part of how he won the election was by promising to end a war that he called “dumb.” We did that! We treated impeachment like a titty twister that stung for a split second but left no bruise. We did that! We zoned out when Bill Barr redacted the truth from the Mueller Report because the word redacted sounded lawerly. We did that! And now we’ll spend a grand total of 26 days blasting the withdrawal of Afghanistan, bemoaning the fate of Afghan Women when we never really cared about them to begin with or we would have trained and armed the battered women trapped in stank-ass burkas instead of the dirty bird men wrapped in stank-ass turbans with hipster beards.
More like in this mission, we’re the accomplice.
We have to change how we vote, we have to change who we vote for, we have to change how we think about America, we have to crawl around inside the plumbing of American Exceptionalism.
Are we exceptional? Or exceptionally cruel, exceptionally stupid, exceptionally lazy besides in our deep-seated commitment to hating those who don’t look how we look or pray how we pray or express love how we express love or live in a country we can even spell: people were so terrified, so desperate they clung to a C-17 as it took off from The Kabul Airport and as two of those terrified, desperate people fell from the sky, this was actually trending on Twitter…
We have to fundamentally change our thinking but the truth is we don’t have the attention span to change anything besides maybe the channel because how can we possibly be expected to hold a thought in our head for more than 9 seconds when the onslaught of corporate bamboozling is unrelenting.
Next up, SpaceX will shoot a rocket ship into space designed to look like an even bigger billionaire penis than the billionaire penis of Jeff Bezos. You can try resisting the endorphin rush of envy but trust me when I say this – resistance is futile – it is the stew.