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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11 and the difficulty of depicting mass tragedy

Adam Kirsch at the Wall Street Journal (yes, you read that right) had a great article today about the limits of literature in depicting modern tragedies. This is obviously yet another response to the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, but it is still interesting that ten years on, we still don't have a satisfactory method for dealing with the horrible senselessness of the tragedy.


Mister Booze said...

Is it necessary? Tragedies come and go. This one, though does not. Maybe it is because the politicians opportunistically said "never forget". In terms of human life hurricane Katrina was a larger tragedy. But we didn't hold on to that one.

I know what I will be doing on 9/11. Not thinking about terrorist attacks on New York.

Ben U. said...

@ Mister Booze: That's because one tragedy affected rich white people and the other affected poor black people. Sad, but true.

Misopogon said...

Well, there's also the fact that there's nobody we can kill or torture to get revenge on Katrina.

9/11 was a profound moment before it was hijacked. For a few days this country was very struck by the event, and okay with each other, and not okay with terrorists still having ears and toes and functional limbic systems.

I remember when I told my mom she'd better take down the American flag about a week later because it no longer meant the same thing. The 30% of this country who care more about their shit than the country appointed themselves the Chief Grievers and Flag Waivers, and then went about discluding from the American unification anybody who didn't fit their narrow definitions. By 2004 this country was as politically split as it has been since Reconstruction. Everything about American life -- Coke/Pepsi, McDonalds, birthday parties -- were being put in red and blue categories.

9/11 and its aftermath is a vastly important story. It demonstrated that most Americans were waiting for any excuse to reunite, and that a subset of Americans would go to any lengths to split us apart.