Better not to start

I really wanted to write about the attacks on America five years ago today.

It’s probably better I don’t begin. I might not ever stop, and even then I might not be able to do justice to what the events of that day did to me, my friends and family, my country, and the world.

Oops… my rant is threatening to begin. Gotta hold back… See, the twin emotions that arise in me when thinking back on that day are anger and… laughter.

Anger, obviously, for the men (and it was entirely men, I believe) that planned and carried out the attacks. And also anger for the men (this time, only largely men, it seems) who used the attacks as political leverage against their own fellow Americans to further their selfish agendas at the expense of anyone who would oppose them.

The twin towers became a pair of batons, handed off from one group of fundamentalists to another, in a race to the destruction of the constitutional documents of the America I believed in and no longer see around me.

Sure, sure… everyone gets the anger part. Not everyone feels it so strongly; I’ve read elsewhere on the internets pleas that we not give in to the anger, that we honor the dead with peaceful reflections. I don’t really get that, but I respect the desire for peace in general.

But… laughter? What kind of ghoul am I, you must be wondering. Let me see if I can explain it.

On that Tuesday morning, five years ago today, I stumbled in to work having seen exactly zero news of the events that had already taken place three time zones away. I don’t recall anyone on the busses or MAX that gave any indication that they had seen or heard of the attacks, either.

My first knowledge of the attacks was seeing two co-workers, women, friends of mine, sitting, heads down, voices low, whispering in sad voices. When I asked them what they were talking about, thinking it might be personal, my friend Terri looked at me and said “Oh, that’s right; you don’t watch the news. A plane has hit the World Trade Center.”

My first thought was of a small aircraft. I thought this was some kind of accident. My friends were badly shaken by it, I could see that, so I left them alone and tried to find out what was going on myself.

I couldn’t get anything – the ‘nets were slow. I went to see one of the network administrators. Susan was in her office, playing, over and over again, the video of the planes hitting the towers. She was trying to find a better feed, get some more news from CNN or anywhere else. I was impatient and didn’t want to stay and wait so I started to excuse myself and she urged me to stay and watch it. She played it for me.

And my first reaction was to laugh. It was absurd. In that tiny window, in the grainy video, it looked… like a special effect. Like a cheesy Michael Bay movie scene. Some action thriller from a book by Tom Clancy.

That kind of shit doesn’t happen in real life.

Susan snapped at me. “Think of all those lives!”

It was real. People were dead or in danger. It appeared to be a deliberate act.

And yet it was absurd, in the philosophical sense. Humanity’s search for meaning will fail, Absurdism tells us, because there is no meaning.

I stumbled through the day and tried to focus on other, more personal things. I tried (and succeeded) in contacting my one friend in New York, whom I had visited for the first (and only) time in Manhattan only 8 months previously. He was OK, a mile from the WTC center, but that was all the thought I remember giving to the attacks that day.

Until I got home, and for the first time in weeks turned on my television and tuned in to CNN and watched the video again. They had been playing and replaying it all day and would continue to do so for days and weeks (and years, it seems), and the first time I saw it on my television it finally sunk in what had happened.

And that time, I grieved. I cried for the loss of life, and the anger of the men who had taken that action, and the fear and anger and folly of the leaders of our country, knowing that there were few good responses to such an action.

I realized that it is people who give meaning to events. There is no meaning inherent in the universe except what our brains impose upon it. Consciousness provides a pattern to events (even when there is no pattern). But I also know that others do not see that simple truth, and once someone has grabbed a meaning to attach to an event or moment, they can fool themselves into believing that that meaning is somehow existent separate from themselves, that they are just responding to the Truth, being loyal soldiers for Meaning, caught in the flow of History.

Crap. Absurd. It’s nothing but a reflection of a person’s fears and hopes. It’s in your own head, dammit! Wake up and see that your posturing about intangible concepts is just self-worship.

And that’s what I knew was to come. I could see the beginnings of it then, and now, five years later, the “leaders” of our country have made just about every bad choice they could have.

Fuck. I didn’t want to go off on a rant.

I’ll stop here.