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WOID #VI-32. The Day After



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Yes, it really is like a funeral. Yesterday, after the explosions and
collapse, there were crowds of people, nicely dressed, wandering uptown
in the lovely sun of late summer. As at a funeral, there was no anger,
not much emotion, really. It was more of a dream for most of us.

It was also quiet, respectfully. There were no cars, of course. Today,
still, it's very quiet in downtown Manhattan. And we are busy toting up
what we've lost, and what we've spared.

Disasters like this can show you who you are. As at a death, there are
those who acted well. My friend A. J. was working on the ground floor
of World Trade One. She managed to get out, and get the people she
supervises out. One of them had an asthma attack, and she managed to
get him out of there, to a hospital in New Jersey, then back again to
New York, thirteen hours later.

As at a funeral, there's a lot of facade: trying to be brave; trying to
hide your satisfaction, the selfish joys of the survivors, the nervous
jokes, the heirs' half-hidden grins. The gloating from the Israel Lobby
has been no less obscene than the ill-informed reactions of some
Palestinians. In the New York Times, Clyde Haberman's disgusting
article, "Do you get it now?" uses this event to justify Israeli murder
squads. Renidet usquequaque.

What I want to tell those who aren't here, because they don't know:
there is no anger, here. We leave that to others. The Governor of Texas
may talk of ultimate battles of good and evil, but we know about evil,
already. Like death, it's all around us always, and all our victories,
for being always temporary, are cherished all the more. Sorry,
Governor, Good will not prevail. It's too late for that.

Among some tribes of the Northwest Coast it was usual, when someone
died, even of natural causes, to raid the other tribes. Against the
many Muslims or Arabs in New York there have been few acts of
retribution. Being human is not easy, but that is our only victory.
Being human is not easy, because it involves more than the gut
reaction; more than the fantasy of omnipotence; more than the denial of
our own mortality. As Saint Anselm put it almost a thousand years
ago: "in our minds there is constant strife between the defense of our
desires and the affirmation of the truth." I was listening to a rescue
worker who had just pulled someone from the ruins, alive. When that
happens, he said, everyone is happy. "Even the dogs get very happy." I
think at times like that we'd all like to be dogs: happy one minute,
barking the next, always forgetful, never conscious of our own weak
selves. For most of us, though, it's too late already.

New York, September 12, 2001

Paul T Werner
http://theorangepress.com

WOID: A journal of visual language

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