gen_is_gone: a yellow daffodil bud on the 9/ll memorial (in memoriam)
I've never been able to articulate my feelings about this day to my satisfaction, and I doubt I'll be able to today. Both this year and last I've been away from home, and more relevantly, away from cable TV, and so both this year and last I woke, got ready for the day and went off to classes unaware of what day it actually was, only for something (today a girl in full patriotic wear--flag on the back of her jean jacket, blue skirt with stars, flags on her sunglasses even) to jolt me back into awareness.

Today I'm wearing my only Captain America related article of clothing, a T-shirt with the outline of the stealth suit over the breast, much more subtle than most related shirts, and also specifically pertaining to Winter Soldier, hence why I bought it in the first place. I pulled it out of the closet today and deliberated over whether I should wear it, again, unaware of the date. I'd originally planned to wear it tomorrow for the drive to the con, because it's a comfortable shirt and also appropriately fannish, but then decided today would be better and, as I often do, tried to think up a reason today would be significant, and couldn't really come up with one. I am fairly sure that had I remembered the date ahead of time, I wouldn't have worn it.

The thing is, within the slightly more bugfuck crevices of my mind, I do find it fitting, for a bunch of knotted up, hard to explain reasons that have to do with this year and both of my grandparents and what this movie and its characters mean to me, but that's not how it would be interpreted, and I'm not sure I'll keep wearing it. I don't want something this difficult for me to deal with in myself to be misinterpreted to mean something like what the girl with the flag jacket might have intended. And I'm not being fair to her, judging something she clearly wore to represent what today is in her head, but it's too easy to look at something like this, our tendency wear our flag on our head any chance we get, and see something twisted in it.

America is most assuredly known for its rabid pride, and all of the unfortunate, even terrible things that we've done in the name of that pride. It's easy to get caught up in the jingoist rhetoric, the fierce and awful nationalism that it was impossible to escape in the early years, and is only slowly easing now. Our pride is only one of our problems, but it's emblematic of many of the others. We're still so, so defensive of this wound, and it is a wound. This was the first attack on our soil since our own Civil War, an attack against ourselves, by ourselves. If that isn't cause to find ridiculous hilarity in the situation, I'm not sure what is.

We express our feelings about September 11th in a variety of perhaps not healthy, and in many cases, reprehensible ways. We as a country don't know how to get over it, and I don't know that we should. Certainly we must let go of the racism and jingoism that characterized (and continues to do so) our foreign policy following the attacks. This isn't a holiday, and it shouldn't be yet another opportunity to do what we're best known for and go out looking for a fight to start. Thirteen years on and some people have come to terms with it. Some people never had any problems dealing with it, and some people might never fully recover. Americans don't really have any cultural ways to deal with victimization. We don't like to admit that we have been victims, and we hate to admit that we very often victimize others as well. We hold ourselves up to impossible ideals, and when we don't live up to them we deny both our vulnerabilities and the crimes we commit to cover for them. We don't like to acknowledge that we're in pain, or grieving, so we lash out, find others to blame, and since we have such might at our disposal, we are capable of causing disasters hundredfold to those (we believe) have wronged us.

Thirteen years and we still haven't come to terms with being victims, if our current foreign policy situations are anything to go by. We haven't made it to a place where we can, as a nation, acknowledge that in many ways our previous generations' imperialism made the bed we lay in now. Heaven forbid we blame ourselves.

I remember the day of the attacks fuzzily. My mother, white-faced and quiet in what I was too young and oblivious to realize was terror. A half-day at school, spent gleefully if confusedly playing with Legos and boardgames. I had a friend then, excited to be turning six, her birthday party scheduled for that Saturday because it fell on a weekday. She didn't come to school that day. A few days later, when she did come, it was with tear-stained face. Her sixth birthday, the eleventh of September, 2001, now a memory of disaster. Years later I remember a different friend, in a different state, singing a little joke birthday song in minor key, people dying everywhere, but Happy Birthday, and laughing along until quite suddenly I remembered the date. I remember feeling sick.

I've had the weird tendency towards spontaneous art memorializing today every year. It's the only way I know how to express that knotted up ball of conflicting emotions. I wasn't there. No one I know was really affected by the attacks, other than the girl whose birthday they fell on. I was seven,and living on the other side of the damn country. It still consumes me once every year. I both can't and can imagine what it might have been like, on a plane suddenly off course and about to kill me, in a building suddenly hit, suddenly crumbling, caught between fire and the fall. What it might have been, choking, covered in plaster, blinded, dust blocking out the sun. Most news outlets can't seem to help themselves, guilt-tripping audiences into rewatching the gratuitous footage of destruction and snow white dust every year, without fail. I've finally learned not to watch.

It haunts us. As a nation, September 11th looms, hits, and then fades back, and on the twelfth we move on with our lives. I wonder if it will always be like this, for the next twenty, fifty, one hundred years, if instead of poppies we'll trot out yet another round of flag-waving. If we'll have some cute little rhyme, telling us when to remember. We have solemn ceremonies at Ground Zero, and a beautiful, horrifying memorial. These past two years I haven't woken up knowing exactly what day it is, and there's a part of me that feels ashamed, and a part of me that feels that this is how it should be. We shouldn't forget the people who died, but we (a nation, not individually) should let go. Holding on, giving in, lashing out, aren't helping us. We have to put the megaphone down, step off the pile of rubble. If anything, this should be a day of community, of remembrance and mourning, of coming together, rather than a day dedicated to revenge and the planning of wars. A day to remember everyone who died, everyone who was victimized, in the initial attacks, in the aftermath, in the wars, in the decades of American imperialistic interference. All of our dead, all of our victims: American, Iraqi, Afghan, Iranian, Syrian, Libyan, Israeli, Palestinian, we all have suffered.

I am not the person best fit to speak on this, and I'll absolutely be dissatisfied with this attempt to put my thoughts into words, as I have all of the others. But these are my thoughts, and these are my words, and this is my grief, and my sorrow, and my rage, and my terror, and my hope.
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