Thursday, April 13, 2006

Two Worlds
You oughta go read Will Bunch today, as he reflects on the cockpit recording from United Flight 93. (That's the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11.) The tape was played for jurors in the penalty phase of the trial of "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui this week.

The point that sticks with me is one Bunch makes toward the end: There's a real world--in which the Bush Administration screwed up its response on September 11 itself, then took advantage of the attacks by lying us into a war and shredding the Constitution--but there's also "9/11 world." This is the place where we're still figuratively curled up in the fetal position, whimpering and traumatized by the attacks. It's a place where we continue to believe many, many things that aren't true and never were, where we ignore real-world truths that seem too complicated to understand or painful to face.

It seems to me that the chances of our entire experiment in democracy failing are proportional to the number of Americans who insist on living as though 9/11 world is the only world there is. Unless people can learn to get past their grief and fear, the danger is very real.

The penalty phase of the Moussaoui trial certainly isn't going to help. The Rude Pundit called it "overwrought" the other day, and that's precisely the right word. Four-plus years after the attacks, the parade of grieving witnesses deployed to make sure Moussaoui winds up dead, dead, dead, went past the point of overkill (so to speak) by the second day. And it's a sure bet the testimony ripped the stitches for a lot of Americans. But for an indication of how tender the wounds remain, you need look only toward the controversy over the trailer for the movie United 93 that's coming out later this spring. The trailer was reportedly so upsetting to New York audiences that one theater quit showing it. Even after living in the shadow of 9/11 every day for over four years, many New Yorkers--jaded and tough as nails though they claim themselves to be--still can't face the memory.

Grief is hard. Everybody responds to it differently, and it can take a long time for some people to get past it. But in order to get past it, a person has to resolve to try. The refusal of so many Americans to make that resolution is only speeding up the spiraling disaster in which we're caught.

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