Last night the state of Georgia tortured and murdered Troy Davis.
It reminded me a bit of the night we killed bin Laden, in the snse that it was very much watching something important happen with many, many other people, through Twitter.
It was heartbreaking. I do not actually have a lot of words for it. It was just horrifying. Leaving a man strapped to a gurney with a needle in his arm for hours, waiting to hear whether he lives or dies, is torture just as surely as waterboarding is. I don’t care what Dick Cheney has to say about it. (To be fair, I do not care what Dick Cheney has to say about anything).
I am always opposed to the death penalty. I’m sure there were some Troy Davis protesters who do not usually oppose the death penalty, but I suspect most death penalty protestors are–as the title would indicate–opposed to the death penalty always. So why, as some asked on Twitter, didn’t we make as big a deal about the other man executed last night? Well, because he was definitely guilty, and because no one is losing sleep over his death. There’s a big difference between these two cases.
But mostly? Mostly, it was just heartbreaking. I swear, sometimes I just tired of the universe.
“Ten years ago, as we all know, ‘everything’ changed. And then some things changed back.”–Henrik Hertzberg
“In the end, J.K. Rowling may have outwritten us all.” –Laurie Moore.
My memories of 9/11 are mostly fragments. I was still pretty young–two days from turning 16–and that’s part of it, but part of it is also that they must be fragments. It is too hard to hold together a coherent picture of the day, from beginning to end.
I remember having a dream the night before that something horrid had happened. I remember going to school the next day. I remember Norman, our principal, calling us into the Big Room and saying, with a catch in his voice and an expression I’d never seen on his face–he was normally quite calm–telling us what had happened. I remember his voice as he said he was thinking about all those people. I remember Anne, the math teacher, one of the gentlest women I will ever have the pleasure to know, saying that it had to be Osama bin Laden. I was, as I said, not quite sixteen, and I was totally unaware of the world around me: I’d been as angry as any other teenage burgeoning progressive wannabe when Bush was “elected” and I’d happily tell you that the GOP was made up of morons, but of the larger world I knew inexcusably little. Or perhaps not inexcusably: perhaps my excuse is merely that I never had to, I could live in my own little world, spill my own little dramas. I did not know what was going on in Iraq, Afganistan–I’m not sure I would even have recognized the names. I was concerned with my own private hell–I was not as desperate and depressed and self-destructive at sixteen as I would be at seventeen, but I was getting there–and I could not see outside myself. Even after 9/11, it would take several years before I learned to look around me, to open my eyes and see the rest of the world. For many years I lived as a ghost might, flitting between home and school, lost in books.
And so I had no idea who bin Laden was. I did not understand what was happening. I did not know what the World Trade Center was. When Dylan asked if this was a terrorist attack and Norman said well yes, it looks that way, I had little concept of what a terrorist attack even is. It would take me a long time to even begin to understand that.
A couple of years ago, I was walking some kids home. At the time, I think that S and N were in 1st grade and C was in kindergarten. As we walked, S told me that they’d learned about 9/11.
Oh? I said.
He was solemn, serious. People were–they flew the planes. Into buildings.
I could hear the wonder in his voice, the utter astonishment. We don’t raise our kids to understand that things like this can happen in the world. And that is not a bad thing. But it makes it much harder to explain, then, at the moment when suddenly you have to.
The kids asked me what had happened. Who were these bad guys who flew planes, and did they mean to fly them into the buildings, or was it an accident? If it was an accident, they could understand it well enough: accidents happen. Milk is spilled, crayons are dropped, sometimes grown-ups say or do things they do not mean. But they couldn’t fathom someone flying a plane into a building to kill people on purpose. And I’m glad, of course, that they cannot.
Do you remember all the “well now we are a better country?” crap? I do. And it turned out to be a grand lie. We are not a better country. We are just as fragmented as we were before 9/11. Probably more so. Oh, there were a few nice moments of national unity, and then we went right back to fighting about butt sex. We do not have a sense, still, of what is right and what is wrong. And I am part of that, of course. I have less than no tolerance for Tea Partiers and racists and insert blank here. I just don’t. And I am not convinced that I should: while I think it is important to be tolerant of ideas, being tolerant of behavior that actively oppresses someone else is another thing entirely.
Hmm. That doesn’t really help clarify matters, does it?
This morning I watched the video footage. I don’t think I’d ever seen it before: that day I was not glued to the television. I could not stand to watch. I have avoided it ever since, but I think that it is important, too, to bear witness. So I watched. And I reacted exactly as you’d think: I gasped, I stifled a sob, I gasped again. I cannot imagine (and I have a fairly fertile imagination) the terror of actually seeing that. I really cannot. And I cannot imagine being a newscaster and suddenly seeing that plane fly into the second tower–how did I miss that video? I’ve never seen it, not that I can remember. If I have, I’ve forgotten, or I very carefully did not notice in the first place. Anyway, I cannot imagine suddenly realizing that this was, in fact, not an accident.
I don’t (as is surely obvious by now) have any sort of unifying theme or comforting conclusion to offer here. I remember what it was like. I mourn for the people who died. I remember how stunning and strange it was to have heroes, actual heroes, among us. I remember how my views on what the nation was like were altered, completely and totally, on one day. I remember how scary it was, to realize that we were not in fact invincible, that on the most beautiful of days the world can suddenly turn to ash.
This morning I happened to be supervising a couple of kids. One was 6, one 4. The 6 year old turned to me suddenly.
Osama bin Laden is dead now, she said.
He is, I agreed.
My mom said he was the boss of all the bad guys.
Your mom is right. He was the boss of all the bad guys.
The 4 year old looked up. How did he die?
Well, the girl said, he killed himself. I think with a bow and arrow. Or a gun.
I said, that’s what you think, huh?
The girl said, let’s build the Pentagon.
They built a tower out of the wooden blocks. The girl got the little plastic helicopter. Let’s fly this into the Pentagon, she said.
They flew the helicopter into the Pentagon. What happens now, I asked.
Everybody got dead, she said matter-of-factly.
I think this is where Bluster Bluth went to school.
I was GOING to stop in Secaucus, NJ, back when I was having some geography troubles and thought it was after the GW bridge. It is not. So I just kept driving. And, I am pleased to say, I drove QUITE CALMLY over the upper level of the bridge. (When I was a kid, I was totally scared of bridges). I did, however, role down the windows, just in case Zoe and I needed to make an escape. I also left our seatbelts on, though, on the theory that we are more likely to get into an accident than to go flying off the George Washington Bridge.
I love driving 95 North. I know! And not ALL of it, and I hate the truckers with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, but it’s kind of reassuring to hit the same landmarks every day. Zoe, I said, here’s the Bronx! Here’s the New Jersey Turnpike! Here’s the Vince Lombardi reststop!
I am a dork, is what I’m saying.
Zoe was a total trooper. For the first bit of the drive, she kept accidently shifting and putting the car in neutral. This was…unnerving at first.
But then we figured it out, and she settled down on her stretched back passenger seat, covered with a sheepskin, wearing her seatbelt. So stinkin’ cute. For realz.
So we went over the bridge and then got stuck in traffic. I had a full tank o’ gas when I left and I kept waiting to find cheap gas to refill…then, in Connecticut, I discovered that I had maybe an 8th of a tank. Do you KNOW how much gas cost? DO YOU KNOW?
Four dollars and thirty three cents a gallon, that’s how much.
I told the guy (it was full service station) that this was a bit pricey, and then we had a little bitch session. He was all, everyone LEFT THE CITY AND NOW WE ARE A SUBURB AND WE USED TO BE A NICE QUIET TOWN. hee.
(I did not fill the tank).
Then I got a little more lost but finally wound up at a hotel. I was very excited to see that it had On Demand, because I LOVE me some On Demand in hotels. But then the TV made this loud buzzing noise that would.not.stop just when I started Cedar Rapids, so I had to call the front desk and ask for a refund. Then I was FURTHER foiled by the lack of good wifi here, and also the lack of Season 1 Veronica Mars streaming on either Netflix OR the WB website, and that made me sad. So now I’m watching Parenthood.
But I had a nice dinner and Zoe is being adorable and tomorrow I will hit my cousin Sarah’s house, and I am excited to see her. And Saturday Then…Sunday I need to find a place to stay, any suggestions near New Bedford, MA? And then Nonquitt. Whoa. Lots and lots of stuff.
Freaky moment of the day: I logged onto facebook and WHO POPS UP BUT MY SHRINK. At a book reading. I happen to be FB fans of the bookstore, and I was all…wait a minute. That’s my shrink. On my facebook page. Because THAT’S not weird or anything.
Also annoying: My Stupid Ankle. Which hurts to drive, and will not let me jump off the diving board, or go for walks on the beach, or basically ANYTHING FUN EVER.
“This war on information is a battle. This war on information is injustice. This war on information is a strategically arranged set of operations designed to victimize and control a specific group of people. This war on information is war.”
Obama Turns Fifty Despite Republican Opposition. (GOP Vows to Say No, No, No).
Stephen Colbert Says that Obama is…well just watch. Also watch his Summer’s Eve bit.
Minimalist Posters for Children’s Books! (WANT. ALL OF THEM).
SHERMAN ALEXIE I LOVE YOU: “And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”