This past summer, nearly every baseball game I attended was marred by what’s unfortunately becoming a standard ritual of our national pastime: during the seventh inning stretch, fans are instructed to stand while “God Bless America” is sung in honor of the lives lost on September 11, 2001. Not surprisingly, this practice began at Yankee Stadium, where they take it rather seriously. Oscar Wilde called patriotism the virtue of the vicious; what, then, is enforced patriotism?
Fortunately, the Pirates don’t engage in such fascism, so I always head for the toilet or just sit in protest. Why? Well, first of all, “God Bless America” is a terrible, terrible song. It consists of trite and simplistic lyrics set to a tune that has all the elegance of an advertising jingle. There are plenty of fine patriotic songs (“America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land,” to name a few); why must we be subjected to Irving Fucking Berlin?
Second, and more important, why must we always “honor” (if having a shitty song sung in your name counts as an honor) the 2,700 or so who died on 9/11? Why not the 417,800 U.S. soldiers who died in WWII, or the 4,200 and counting who died in Iraq? For that matter, why not the 40,000 who died on the highways this year? It doesn’t make any sense to dwell on a single tragedy that took place over 7 years ago.
Clearly, baseball is not the only institution that dwells on 9/11; in fact, most of our foreign and domestic policy continues to be driven by the attacks. We’re mired in two wars, torturing detainees, and suspending habeus corpus. Our civil liberties have been stripped away, we’re subject to warrantless wiretapping, and we have to wait on line at the airport for hours so that high school dropouts can make sure we don’t have any tweezers in our carry-on bags. All this because a small band of religious nuts armed with box cutters (box cutters!) killed a few thousand people and did some relatively minor damage to our infrastructure. A mosquito landed on our arm, so we chopped it off…and we chopped off the wrong arm.
What I’m about to write will effectively preclude me from ever holding public office, but that ship sailed long ago, so here goes:
Get over it.
That’s right, get over it. It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal in the first place. The fact that we made it into one means that the terrorists won; they accomplished far more than they could have hoped for. The appropriate response would have been 1) to strike back hard at those responsible (and only those responsible; not, say, Iraq) and 2) to shrug off the attacks. If that’s the worst these clowns can do, they’re not much of a threat. We took down the Nazis and the Japanese; a tiny network of primitive, loosely affiliated terrorist cells is no reason to change our way of life and abandon the principles that make this country great.
“Ground Zero” is a great metaphor for our response to the attacks. We let an embarrassing crater sit in Manhattan for five years while we agonized over what would constitute an appropriate monument. Now we’re building the “Freedom Tower,” with its cheesy name, grossly excessive security features, and 60m high base that does nothing but waste prime real estate. Instead, we should have immediately rebuilt the towers exactly as they had been, only bigger and with a slightly different form:
How many people know when Pearl Harbor was attacked? I look forward to the day when September 11 is just another date. “Never Forget?” Fuck that. Forget.