CW: Death, violence, erasure, trauma, xenophobia, racism, imperialism, slavery, 9/11
Twenty years ago. I’ll never forget.
And, I’ll also never forget the connections to the critique of imperialism, and/or to the refusal of racist, xenophobic, U. S. exceptionalism.
That doesn’t make “what happened” on 9/11/2001 okay…but, it might make it more understandable than otherwise.
In 2001, I lost a few friends over this “argument.” I was called “unpatriotic,” “insensitive,” and “having employed poor timing” by virtue of some people’s interpretations of my beliefs and comments, and when I shared them, WHILE I was expressing grief, compassion, and, yes, dissent. The ONLY person, at the time, who discussed this shared nightmare with me (of being yelled at and what would now be called “gaslit”) was Ana Teresa Ortiz. Thank you, Ana.
I’m too old (and have been through too much) to care, now, if people think it was or is “insensitive” of me to point out the roles of white supremacy, nationalism, and U. S. domination in the “events” that led up to 9/11.
One of my friends helped locate hands and feet, with dog experts sniffing at the scene. One of my friends carried someone over her shoulder from the rubble and remains of the collapsing PATH station. One of my friends was not at a scheduled meeting in one of the towers, and watched the attack and collapse from across the street. One of my friends’ young adult children had ashes all over his car, two weeks after moving to NYC to go to college. One of my friends ran for her life. One of my friends watched people on fire falling falling falling past her. I was helpless in the face of their trauma, but I listened.
I had guilt as a Native New Yorker who was in school, at the time, in Arizona. I could only listen and bear witness, but I wasn’t there, wasn’t at home. I got a lot of crap from several people because I couldn’t know what it was like to be in NYC the day of, or the weeks and months following. I was later criticized for commenting curiously on a new flag decal in a friend’s car’s side window, as if I didn’t “get it,” because I’m a “traitor.”
I cannot be told as easily as many others to “go back where you came from, if you don’t like it here,” because HERE is where I was born, during yet another U. S. imperialist horror–the war in Viet Nam. So, I’m told to “leave if you don’t like it here.”
This commentary and these experiences are being shared not for sympathy for or attention being paid to me.
Instead, I’m once again traversing social media to remind (with kind, not patronizing assertiveness) those who might not have “been there” that trauma often gets ranked, is hierarchically analyzed, and gets discussed in Oppression Olympics style, in ways that harm, demean, and disrupt others.
And: Yes, accountability and inequity are serious and real. We are not “all in the same boat,” and a student of mine taught me years ago that the idiom “all in the same boat” is arguably a reference to slavery, so that’s “another kettle of fish” (and that’s another fraught, hardly universal idiom, about things not being as they initially seemed, or being different from or more of whatever that something seems).