…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States.
The World Trade Center razing on September 11, 2001, was such a momentous calamity that generations from now, there will still be bad TV movies made about it.
After Poffy The Cucumber’s numerous screeds pertaining to the Twin Towers’ toppling, it seemed only appropriate that he should one day visit that blighted urban pampas, that valley of skulls, where the future of liberty was forever set upon an uncertain pedestal.
Someone suggested it would raise the hair on the arms, but Poffy has no hair. Someone suggested that only through firsthand proximity to the fated site could its true aura be fearfully felt, but Poffy ran about amok, clamoring for ice cream.
Whilst walking the miles of sky scraping ziggurats and steel-dusted streets from Midtown Manhattan to the hallowed shoreline locale of One World Trade Center, it was all I could do to curb Poffy’s enthusiasm in skipping along and singing gaily, “We’re off to visit 9-11! We’re off to visit 9-11!” informing him in gated tones that it was known as “Ground Zero”…
Bored of Heroes.
ur first stop at Ground Zero, Poffy and I gaze intently at the Heroes Board, trying to discern whether these names were policemen, volunteer firefighters, civilians who jumped out of windows or people who rode a suicide Boeing. After the WTC tragedy, the term “hero” itself became as plastic as the explosives placed strategically at key structural points of the WTC buildings to allow them to collapse so neatly into their own footprints. (Did I say that aloud?)
Let’s court some perspective here (probably the first time it’s ever been done at Ground Zero): many relatives and friends of mine have died, in causes natural and accidental. Though they accomplished triumphs on a personal level, none of them could remotely be regarded as a “hero” on a public level. Likewise, not only have the victims of the Tower attacks done anything remotely grandiose on a personal level (other than retain a job to provide for their families), it is dubious any of them accomplished anything on a worldwide scale – enough to be termed a “hero” at least. Were any one of them nominally “famous” or “accomplished” in any way, the whore-mongering newscasters would have had a public relations field day touting their celebrity. No sidebars or featurettes were produced for any single WTC victim because each was unremarkable to the point of mediocrity. But don’t sweat it – so were all my relatives and friends. Isn’t it about time America also admitted this about their cause célèbre WTC casualties?
Instead, for the world to see, the American media, with the public’s unhinged approbation, elasticizes the terminology of “hero” to include people that were killed unknowingly, quickly and without reason, on this Board of Elusive Vernacular.
Near the Heroes Board, Poffy buys a touristy t-shirt and frolics, overjoyed to find his reflection in the water – he is, after all, just a figment of someone’s imagination. Pictures – professional and amateur – line the Ground Zero restraining barrier, which encircles an area larger than can be perceived through a television screen more enthralled with station identification banners, text crawls and advertising junkets, and the imagination reels with the magnitude of what transpired that fateful day, to bring down such monoliths so decisively.
Whether or not more than just burning jet fuel (which cannot burn hot enough to melt skyscraper steel) brought down the Towers, surely their razing was joyously exploited by the power-junkie thugs in office.
Proving conclusively that where there are Heroes, there are Villains.
The most obvious antagonists in the drama were the Islamic fanatics who steered passenger-laden planes into the WTC Towers; behind these men, the organizers of the attack, a collective called al Qaeda; and steeped in the filthy rectum-blackness, behind them all, coming full circle, stand the dignitaries of the country that was attacked – all the President’s men.
Let’s reflect on villainy.
Villains are not necessarily “conspirators.” No one is saying that President Bush organized the attacks on the WTC Towers, or was even complicit in their staging; in the aftermath, it was not he who personally masterminded his administration’s devices against freedom and truth – but in being used as a figurehead to absorb blame and simultaneously present a dunderhead upon which no conspiracy theories would realistically stick, Bush is complicit in every successive crime and unconstitutional mandate that 9-11 spawned against civil rights.
George W. Bush himself – the man, the myth, the moron – could not organize a fake photo op to portray himself in ill-fitting pilot’s garb convincingly, let alone a fracas on the scale of 9-11. But the United States government collective (including, but not limited to, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice), though felons and imbeciles, are not too brain-dead to discern the benefits in allowing their cringing citizens to THINK they ARE smart enough to collude on a conspiracy of this magnitude. Using the people’s paranoia against them, paint-sloshing their every political move against a “terror” cyclorama, the cowards of the United States government hold their citizens united – in fear – not of the long-forgotten threat of al Qaeda (who have not reared their jihad since September 2001) but of the United States government itself, who, by incessantly crying wolf in a post 9-11 world, have become the sole perpetrators of terror and usurpation of liberty against the American people.
Not far from the madding crowd.
Poffy in the 9-11 mosh pit.
On the heels of all who come to pretend sorrow or respect appear the dissenters and their crackpot filibustering. Trouble is – these didactic soapboxers are probably right. And the only reason they have nothing to fear from this government who “disappears” their naysayers (by sacking television reporters and castigating journalists) is because they present their arguments in just such a gauche fashion. Ain’t it quaint how lies told through a government office are more readily believed than truths told through an honest patriot?
When FDR made his observation about “fear itself,” his integrity would never have allowed him to conceive that one of his very successors would use fear itself as the political sledgehammer by which to retain office. For those who believe that George W. invented the word “terror,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s full quote, referring to the 1933 Depression’s gaunt specter, reads, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” No, George Walker Bush is not the first U.S. President to know “terror” as a debilitating civil heartsickness – he is just the first U.S. President to wield that terror as a weapon against his own people.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes “villain” as “a deliberate scoundrel or criminal.” Thusly, peddling mendacious stories of American military successes in news forums worldwide, lying outright to the American people about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq as an excuse to invade the country, eliminating global warming passages in federal reports on air pollution – these are all acts of villainy. Deliberate. Criminal. Scoundrel.
Only True Villains would neglect to alert rescue teams to the toxicity of the air enshrouding Ground Zero in its immediate aftermath (“…most dangerous aspect of fire in modern buildings is the production of dense, deadly pyrotoxins…carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen chloride, vinyl chloride…” A Path Where No Man Thought, Carl Sagan, Richard Turco); only Villains of a magnitude infinitely greater than bank robbers and grocery store bandits or drunk drivers and jay walkers would allow their own citizens to die from anthrax before losing profits (“Once it belatedly realized that another terrorist attack was under way, the administration’s first impulse was not to secure as much Cipro as speedily as possible to protect Americans, but to protect the right of pharmaceutical companies to profiteer by refusing to break Bayer AG’s patent and authorize other drug companies to produce generic versions of the drug.” The Greatest Story Ever Sold, Frank Rich).
Villainy abounds in every step, every nuance of the George W. Bush administration, from former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s passing his USA Patriot Act before most of congress bothered to take the time to read it, to decimating a country that had nothing to do with attacking yours, all the while accusing it of being about to attack yours and lying to your citizens that there is compelling evidence to suggest it will, though there is none.
Democracy of Photos.
In the course of 9-11 marketers selling their Grand Euphemisms, Poffy and I found nothing more affronting to the nation’s perceived bovine aspect than this Ground Zero panel, advertising a photo exhibit that veritably screams agitprop by its title alone – “here is new york: a democracy of photographs.” “Democracy” is a noun, referring to the canon of government by the people. Did these photographs vote themselves into the exhibit? How does one even rationalize the phrase “democracy of photographs” to mean anything other than maroon-necked jingoism? “Democracy” also means “classlessness.” If the title is any indication, we can safely say that this collection has already exhibited its classlessness.
American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial.
This macabre sculpture has nothing to do with 9-11, simply providing a good photo op for Poffy, who was almost arrested, but stood still enough for security guards to think he was part of the statue. Dedicated October 8, 1991, the depressing tableau depicts merchant mariners in a sinking lifeboat, and is located out in the bay surrounding Battery Park where various other 9-11 paraphernalia resides.
And the sign sez: “No Trespassing: Violators will be prosecuted.” Bit late to start prosecuting unauthorized visitors to the World Trade Center, innit? Al Qaeda’s motto probably reads something like, “Been there, done that” as far as trespassing on foreign soil with a big muddy bootprint up America’s ass.
If something as big as two airplanes could infiltrate the hawk sensors of Homeland Security, a smallish naked cucumber defying authoritah and scrambling over the daunting three-tiered barrier to ostensibly retrieve his pencil would ring not a single bell.
It is September 2006 and this fence has clearly been up too long. Who is being fooled by its existence? Tourists. Why is there no construction to rebuild? Because the thick-necked public – those Great Unwashed, those Salt of the Earth, blessed with the sacred gene of mediocrity, who will do nothing remarkable to avouch their claim on Life, have found a vicarious 15 minutes of historical significance that they refuse to release their stranglehold on; this site must not be “desecrated” with new buildings because as it stands deserted and useless, it links them with history in a way that declaring they won the lottery through missing teeth and white-trash bra-straps could never do.
The Kennedy Assassination generation is all but vanished or in senior diapers – time for a new Historical Event that this generation can claim as their own Defining Moment, a sliver of history on which they can eat out for decades, relating where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news and shat themselves.
No less of a contention than the Kennedy Assassination, 9-11 conjures its own sheaf of conspiracy theories, to keep art students, coffee houses, moviemakers, internet monkeys and anarchist news junkies busy for those same decades.
As much as “conspiracy” is bandied about, take a step back to discern the meaning of the word “conspire”: to act in harmony toward a common end. Seems like the present administration is doing just that to keep their pockets padded and their citizens stultified. “Conspiracy” need not necessarily mean “in cahoots with the Taliban” – “conspiracy” could show its hand in the simplest euphemisms, like terming a war progressed on the basis of a bitchslap to a former administration Operation Iraqi Freedom; like titling a pathologically paranoid document The USA Patriot Act when it is so stridently unpatriotic…
That there IS a conspiracy should not come as a surprise – the surprise, the “Shyamalan Twist” as it were, is that the conspiracy is not clandestine at all, but in full view of the American people, as the “managed news” that the government has been spoon-feeding the public all along, with nary a whimper of dissent by opposing political parties or supposedly objective journalistic forums. Knowing what we do now, this should come as no surprise, considering the American President is the greatest terrorist threat the world has ever seen – opposed to world peace, human intelligence, and a sustainable environment, enforcing his methods of opposition in the most underhanded, cowardly and life-destroying ways, through duplicity, hypocrisy, self-deceit and utter ignorance and stupidity; a spoiled brat wearing a cowboy hat who found his father’s guns lying around…
Lying on the Poster.
While the Great Unwashed mill lugubriously, ostentatiously lamenting their passed loved ones because it’s the fad in September in America, showing their respect not necessarily to the untimely dead, but to the television culture which may be watching them at any given moment, Poffy reclines on a sorrow-laden parchment and laments the death of liberty, equality and brotherhood.
The official excuses to go to war with Iraq involved Weapons of Mass Destruction as a potential threat to America; in falling for this whitewash, Americans must ask themselves whether they were actually paying attention in September of 2001 – when no nuclear weapons were used to bring the United States to its knees, but rather, everyday objects USED as weapons (much like The Godfather Part III, where Micheal Corleone’s emissary infiltrated a don’s stronghold with no weapons and yet managed to murder the don using the don’s own eyeglasses). The lesson: if someone wanted to really and truly kill you, they would find a way. No weapons required.
When informed by police, “No lying on the poster,” Poffy replied, “Exactly!” adding that his panegyric to Liberty was the whole truth and nothing but the truth – something which the very leaders of the country have not the temerity to embrace. To which the police retorted that although they were massive fans of his, they would have to remove him vegetably from the locale.
Poffy was apprehended again later that day graffitiing “Bush Nam” on a Ground Zero stanchion and questioning the connection between Iraq-Qaeda and Saddam bin Laden to a gaggle of loyal listeners who bought his comedy album and compared him to Lenny Bruce…
Walking in Graceless Land.
A somber moment for Poffy, as we walk the wall of mourning, he in his “I heart NY” T-shirt, representing the thug Rudy Giuliani, and I in my F.U. T-shirt, representing the felon George W. Bush. Lest we forget that actual human beings died here, our immediate mien must necessarily remain respectful.
Yet for all its soul-crushing impact five years ago, 9-11 itself has lost its edgy grit in this world where video games glorify thug violence and news programs homogenize mass murder and horrific shrapnel-sprayed death as nothing more than necessary roughness. 9-11 does not really even conjure that fateful September day in 2001 any more – it has become embedded in world vernacular as a brand name, like Band-Aid or Coca-Cola, so much so that marketers do not even have to use artifice in selling their coffee table books of carnage, or ingloriously vapid stick pins of liberty and freedom and those insufferable little American flags, bastardized into magnet ribbons and pens and lighters and baseball caps. It is a testament to the governmental inculcation of the Selling of Their War that people selectively lap up the “prescribed” 9-11 paraphernalia like puppy milk and pule indefinably at extra-curricular exploitations (like movies and documentaries pertaining to 9-11), which are no better or worse in their tackiness than limited-issue stamps or commemorative plates depicting the featherbrained President in laughably ill-fitting jet pilot’s clobber.
As we walk the barrier brimming with smiling pictures and flowers and homemade cards, we can’t help but notice the proliferation of American flags in various incarnations. In the months following 9-11 the American flag was desecrated more by the American people exhibiting it in ignominious, ignorant fervor than any of the Haight-Asbury hippies who burned it during protests against Viet Nam. The fact that the once-powerful symbol of the nation’s flag has become commonplace enough to splay across cheese, cameras, shoes, car windows, outside grocery stores, on bikini calendars, on turkey packaging, as backdrop to reality shows (those sandwich-board hobos were right – The End is truly Nigh) illustrates its ineffectiveness, impotence and subsequent desecration as a symbol of freedom, liberty and national unity.
Poffy’s T-shirt was pulled from a package emblazoned with Betsy Ross’ handiwork. Mighty powerful T-shirt, that…
The Sphere of Sfear.
Ultimately, Ground Zero is not as somber a graveyard as one might expect, as the greed of Western Civilization pumps the city’s heartbeat in, around and through this media-hallowed vicinity, scurrying corpuscles rushing to their dates with money in a capitalistic, lard-guzzling fever.
Rent must be billed, taxes must be seized, faces must be sat upon; trains must continue to run, hospitals must continue to charge, politicians must continue to rape.
This sphere, designed by Fritz Koenig, creatively titled “The Sphere” (modern art – the means by which people less intelligent than you make themselves feel more intelligent via their esoteric inanities), once stood in Austin Tobin Plaza, between the WTC Towers; dented by airplane and skyscraper debris, it now stands in Battery Park, where Poffy uses its uncertain surface to abseil in honor of 9-11. Yelling “Freedom!” like Mel Gibson on every downstroke, Poffy was soon arrested again and proceeded to extol to the Nazi-shorn patrol officers his final word on Ground Zero:
Exeunt in Shame (whose shame?)
The very fact that five years after the destruction of the WTC Towers no semblance of edifice could be agreed upon amicably and erected, due to the Babel of dissenters, anarchists (government bodies included in this tag), conspiracy theorists and “hero” worshipers, coupled with the fact that a mildly-retarded felon is the transparent figurehead helming the Divided States of America, proves at least one thing – the terrorists are indeed still winning.
Poffy was sent home to Los Angeles with a stern warning and a restraining order never to go within one hundred miles of Ground Zero again.