Yesterday morning they were talking about tributes and memorials planned across town, and over in Tempe by the "town lake" (long rant possible on that subject) they have set up a field of American flags, one for each life lost in the Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. The television news reporter giving the story called September 11, 2001, "the day America lost her innocence."
I wondered about that. Because it seems to me that we lost our "innocence," such as it was, long ago. I personally pin that particular loss (although in some ways it was a distinct gain) on Richard Nixon and Watergate. The stark revelation of a president who lied to everyone shocked America out of a rather innocent time when Presidents were Good Men who were not to be mocked, and, when disagreed with, done so with respect. He was the President. This can be seen in old movies from the 40's, whenever Roosevelt is even mentioned, it's with great reverence and respect. The same with Eisenhower. After Nixon, though, presidents were seen as men with distinct feet of clay, and comedians were given free rein to mock as they pleased. Where would Chevy Chase be without Ford's slip on the Airforce One steps? Dan Aykroyd's Nixon; Dana Carvey's George Bush; the Spittin' Image Reagans in the classic video "Land of Confusion."
However, come September 11, 2001, and suddenly we're back the other direction. No bad must be said of the President because these are "dangerous times" and "He's The President." It's shocking to see any comment against the president being called unAmerican, unPatriotic, and even treasonous. It's even worse than the 40's and 50's. How long has it been since Will Ferrell performed his riotous version of DUHbya?
Bill Clinton made note of this in his recent Daily Show appearance, and commented he was glad to see it coming back the other way. If any president of recent history was made the butt of jokes, it was good ol' Slick Willy. Also performed magnificently on SNL by the likes of Phil Hartman and Darrell Hammond. I hope he's right about that. While I don't particularly like mocking any American President, I believe we have the right to do so, sometimes (often) the NEED to do so, and shouldn't lose that right by wrapping the man in the office, and I've laughed as much as anyone at portrayals of the men and women I've supported as much as the men and women I haven't. Phil Hartman as Clinton is just as funny as Will Ferrell's Bush.
Anyway, having never been to New York while the Towers stood, I'll now never see them. Their entire lifetime existed within mine, which seems like a very short time for architectural masterpieces. Oddly, in a detached way, I mourn the loss of the buildings as much as the people, and not just for their "symbolic" appeal, but for their beauty, their accomplishment, and their style. Also lost that day were historical items very few people stopped to remember, things which were stored there for safety, such as all the records involving the excavation of the slave burial grounds found on the New York islands.
And most of all, I mourn the real loss of America that I have witnessed in the years since. In many ways the terrorists did win over our way of life that day, because we have gladly and willingly surrendered many of our basic civil rights in the name of "safety." To be safer, we have thrown away a number of things which we took for granted as Americans. The simple right to gather in a public square, or go to a Presidential debate, have been abolished. I won't even go into taking a plane trip. And it was all wrapped tightly in the flag under a name like The Patriot Act, implying that if you're against such a thing, obviously you're not a patriot. Every time I'm told I don't "support the troops" because I'm against the war in Iraq, I burn inside. Propaganda from El Presidente is swallowed eagerly by fully half of the country and they continue to beg for more. "We are safer." Just remember that. "We are safer." Just ignore the reports that terrorist activity has actually increased, not decreased, since we forwarded American Safety by invading Iraq. I can only thank goodness a gigantic number of young voters get most of their news from The Daily Show.
I had a second rant, but I can't remember what it was. It came to me briefly at work yesterday but I didn't have the time to write it down, and as such, well, it's gone. Maybe I'll remember sometime.
I think I'll bake cookies. Nothing like cookies on a too-hot September day.
Also of note to remember: John Ritter passed away suddenly one year ago today, and tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the loss of Johnny Cash. Is my first draft done? No, but in my own defense, I DID have to turn in fully NINE reviews by yesterday, and I did it. Whew. (And for those interested, they can be viewed here, once they all get up.) For those who like solid Texas country, I recommend pretty much everything by Robert Earl Keen.