Why does every political blog cover the exact same stories? Want to hear about Obama’s speech? You have about ten thousand choices. I read the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo daily. I don’t know why. Both carry the same material just about every day. Maybe they steal from each other, or maybe the posters are just locked into the same mindset.
Its not just those two sites. At least on the lefty side of the World o’ Blog every blogger writes about the same subjects day after day after day after day. Yes, of course there are exceptions. Andrew Sullivan’s blog the Daily Dish deals with lots of original topics and, of course, Daily Kos discusses dozen of arcane subjects, as does Yglesias, but most blogs don’t fall far from the echo tree.
Today and tomorrow absolutely everyone will be writing about the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Most of the posts will cover the obvious and will echo each other’s point. I’m sure, by the way, it will be equally true on those despicable red blogs. And yes, the Mainstream Media will do the same in the shallowest way. Most of the stories will be the same, only the interviewers and interviewees will differ.
By the way, have you noticed how canned the news has become on the networks? Take a natural disaster, for instance. The story first tells us a tornado (or maybe a flood, earthquake or hurricane) devastated (pick a town). Then we are shown thirty seconds of video of the devastation (we are always shown cars destroyed by the event; every flood story has footage of shiny new Toyotas floating crookedly in the muddy water). Next we see a crying woman holding her baby, puppy, cat or father’s photograph; usually she’s obese, speaks in a redneck accent, and lives in a trailer park (her tin home was blown away, flooded, or shaken into slivers). “I’m just lucky to be alive,” she wails. Then comes the old, confused man who can’t find his wife, kids, siblings or cousins. Next we hear from the mayor, governor, chief of police, or some other political figure who tells us, in his or her ten second sound bite, how bad it was but how well the town, county or state is coping with the aftermath of the (tornado, flood, earthquake or hurricane). Finally, a chipper younger woman tells our intrepid reporter the people in (some town) are resilient and tough and, by God, won’t let this natural disaster destroy their spirit; her husband, son, daughter, sibling or neighbor then declares he/she will definitely rebuild his or her house, store, barn, church or whatever because God will be there for everyone and his neighbors.
There’s an excellent chance the story will end with the heartwarming tale of how a dog, cat, pig, cow, gerbil or other animal, was miraculously spared by the tornado, flood, earthquake or hurricane. A video clip of the reunion of weeping human and precious fauna plays while the news anchor offers up some upbeat and banal comment. Yes, the disaster was awful; but wasn’t it wonderful the poor guy found his dog, then he segues to a two minute piece about the health risks of potato pancakes and sour cream.
So now, of course, its time for me the share my own thoughts about that beautiful Tuesday morning ten years ago. I was in my office. My secretary had a small black and white television in her office. She interrupted my meeting with a client. “A plane hit the trade center in New York,” she said. Her report stunned me. I’m one those poor souls who live in the hinterland but are desperately in love with New York city. I didn’t end my meeting, however. Then the second plane hit; this was not a tragic accident. We were under attack. We spent the next three or so hours staring at the small TV screen.
The real impact of that unbelievable morning hit with the collapse of the first tower. As that monstrous gray cloud hurtled down to the street level I was overwhelmed and disoriented. How could this happen? How could one of those proud towers, so iconic, vanish in a few seconds. Next came the sickening realization that there were still hundreds and hundreds of people in the building when it fell.
The fall of the second tower, the spread of that hideous cloud over lower Manhattan, the news of the attack on the Pentagon, the scenes of the stunned survivors covered in that dust, and the shocked tones of the reporters deepened the sadness and drove home the monumental loss our country had suffered.
Some will write this weekend of how we lost our way when we stumbled into Iraq and slashed our Constitution’s guarantee of our personal liberty and right to privacy. They will decry the loss of the solidarity Americans had the aftermath of 9/11. They will tell us our current debt and deep recession and the insane paralysis in our political system stem from Bush’s jingoistic, hugely expensive (in both lives and treasure) response to the collapse of those gleaming towers.
Others will defend the measures the government has adopted to protect our homeland. They will defend “enhanced interrogation” and the establishment of the hydra headed security service that makes us remove our shoes and intercepts our electionic communications. Some of them will urge us to engage in yet more military actions against even more Muslim countries (Syria, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan…)
Each camp will assail the other. Each will declare the other is threatening to destroy what Makes America Great. They will disagree about precisely what that is. Neither side will listen to the other. There will be no debate, just a shrill cacophony of angry shouts. 9/11 once united us. In the twisted decade since that mournful morning the divide between us has widened into a chasm so wide we cannot even hear one another.
I have my opinions. You have yours. What I feel this weekend is not anger. Nor do I wish to pontificate, not on this day. No, this sunny, clear first September Saturday morning is reserved for somber recollection.
This day I feel only sadness. I sorely miss those gleaming towers. These is an ache in my heart. Whenever I see the skyline of lower Manhattan I can still sense their presence, twin ghosts, pale and translucent, haunting the city. The towers are gone, fallen to earth that September morning now ten years past. They have vanished as has our smug assurance of our invulnerability. They fell, leaving behind only that roiled, suffocating gray cloud that has now spread so far and wide it threatens to engulf us all.
Photo by Testspiel, subject to this creative commons license
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