Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 Years On

I remember how the Dolchstoßlegende. came immediately on the day.  Naturally spontaneously and without any demagogic prompting, at least at first.  I remember several people staring at the burning rubble and saying something along the lines of "America learned a lesson today".  They didn't specify this it was very clear what they were implying; that the mere fact that we had been and could be attacked was in itself proof of some failure of strength courage or action on our own part.  I remember how when people spoke of hitting the terrorists back they were cheered with equal sincerity, in perfect confidence that to speak of retaliation was in itself a sign of exceptional courage, honest certainty that the very concept of self-defense was the personal property of White rural conservative Americans and that nobody else was strong or good enough to truly understand such a thing.  We, (Not me even then, but I was native to the group and counted as 'us) had been proven right you see.  Right wing ideas regarding not just foreign policy but also social issues and more than that had been proven right.  This was the big I-told-you-so-event.  The one thing which proved that a life and culture fixated upon power control and hierarchy was the only possible alternative to hellish chaos. Here was the one proof that the nation was dependent on not just our choice of leaders or ideal of leadership, but could not survive without Our cultural dominance.

Our nation's behavior in the years after 9/11 does not surprise me in the least then.  Even if the Iraq war hadn't of happened some other violation(s) of Vizzini's first law would have.  The spirit of the time and all number of chauvinistic demons released by our anger demanded it. 

Off-topic as this might seem I have just finished reading "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke and can't help but feel that it is in some ways appropriate for this anniversary.  The main villain of the book is a fairy, I mean the literal magic sort, not the slur, and at several points in the book the Fairy species is described as "mad", "barely sane", etc.  By our standards they are indeed every synonym for batty there is ; but only as a consequence of being privileged.  The fairies are aristocrats; not metaphors for aristocrats but in manner, speech, lifestyle and attitude the real deal.  The actions of the 'gentleman' villain are in many ways simply exaggerated echoes of how the largely upper-class protagonists disregard women, minorities, foreigners the poor etc. themselves.  And I don't think it's a coincidence that Clark set her novel during the Napoleonic wars, near the beginning of the West's fitful, violent transition from hierarchical to democratic social norms. 

Clarke's point here, at least partially, (and yes 'anyone looking for a moral will be banished' etc...') was that both the sense of entitlement to privilege is insane and the actual fact of living in privilege induces insanity.  Anyone who honestly believes their privilege to be naturally deserved instead of arbitrary is bound to fall into 'stabbed in the back logic'; to make a god of their own strength as the only real determinative force in the world, to grossly overestimate what their own power toughness and ability to fight and punish can possibly accomplish; unable to grasp that every other group of people is an 'us' to themselves with their own self-centering interpretation of the world, so that other peoples action do not result chiefly or even mainly out of fear/respect vs. envy/contempt for 'us'.  Privilege makes you hostile, bestial, unable to notice when the rest of the world has outmaneuvered you or simply passed you by.  Privilege convinces you that your tactics of intimidation from fifty years ago will still work today and always will.  Privilege leads you to make that preemptive strike, start that land war in Asia, to sign that letter of succession convinced the weak Yankees could never defeat you and your fellow landowning Supermen.  Privilege leads you to turn on the firehoses, convinced those Outside Agitators stirring the Negroes up will simply cower away forever once they've seen your superior courage.

Even before 9/11 the political Right of this country were very much inclined to think of  themselves as the strong fathers whose leadership the rest of the nation could not live without.  Modern conservatism is, after all, 'politically correct' in its own way, a replacement for old direct appeals to white supremacy as the go-to claim of ownership over the United States, the go-to claim for entitlement to privilege.  They had their chance, after the crisis at the beginning of this century, to prove their pretentions to being our natural leadership class was objectively true.  They failed.  Famously, miserably, and totally.  Too enamored by the illusion of inventing reality that is an unavoidable comes with a life of privilege. And while there are signs that they recognize this failure deep down it is still clear, with every claim that President Obama is weak towards terrorism, (when the fact is that his tactics here have been depressingly similar to Bush's) with every eighth or ninth dozenth vote to repeal health care reform (Refusing to accept that their failure has been so complete that not even 'big government' is taboo anymore) that they are still clinging to that sense of ultimate vindication they felt on September 11th'; gained through the blood of multicultural urbanites they only grudgingly acknowledge as compatriots. 

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