Rage though.... that hits later. Much later
"I've been trying for hours just to think of what exactly to say
I thought I'd leave you with a letter of fiery speech
Like when an actor makes an exit at the end of the play
And I've been dying for hours
Trying to fill up all the holes with some sense
I'd like to know how you faded and you threw it away
I'd like to give you all the reasons and what everything meant
Well I could tell you good-bye
Or maybe see you around
With just a touch of sarcastic thanks
We started out with a bang
And at the top of the world
Now the guns are exhausted
And the bullets are blanks
And everything's blank
If I could only find the words then I would write them all down
If I could only find a voice I would speak
But it's there in my eyes so can't you see me tonight
C'Mon and look at me and read 'em and weep
If I could only find the words then I would write them all down
If I could only find a voice I would speak
Oh it's there in my eyes so can't you see me tonight
C'Mon and look at me and read 'em and weep "
- Steinman and the 'Loaf on the RFI.
The dream is ever the same...
"I'm asleep, in bed, in that deep and timeless state between dream and reality, when the mind scrolls images and fragments of dream across the screen, mixing real and unreal in a kalideoscope on imagery. And I hear shots... screams. It takes me a moment to seperate wether they're a part of the hazy world on the edge of sleep, or outside of it... moments longer to wake bolt upright and rolling out of bed. There's a pistol in my hand as I run to the door - I don't remember reaching for it as I exit the room.
I reach the front door in a house that's strangely empty, and in a curious silence outside, contrasting my waking... I wonder if in fact it was dreamreal that wakened me The door opens not out onto the familiar Oak Cliff night - darkened houses and traffic sounds - but onto rainforest and burning adobe. And the smell of roasting pork... and fresh sheared copper. And there are towers in the distance, over the trees far away, also burning. Two of them...
And then I wake up, truly into the real, rather the dreamwalk, in a cold sweat."
The dream changed over time, never quite the same twice, and then it faded, went away... but the feeling never changed:
We're back in the bush, once more, and the bush is here now - where our friends and our families live, not "over there" someplace. We're no longer "Back in The World". Living in Indian Country.
Lileks: War, Day One"Went to Target. Life goes on, even if it’s in a state of tremulous fury and worry. Bought . . . frames. Simple items that will forever be tied to this day, these events; it’s like a water faucet you installed on the day Kennedy was shot. Every time you turn the tap, somewhere in the back of your head you remember."
Where were you the Day the World Changed?
I was working on the computer, doing nothing much, like any of a hundred nights. Watching the rendo forums on one machine, and puttering around in Bryce on my workstation. My roomie woke up around 7ish, as per usual, muttered something that sounded suspiciously like a cross between "Morning" and a snarl [also as per usual], and staggered off for coffee. Also as normal, at least on days that I was awake at dawnish... once he'd managed to acheive semi conciousness, we sat around and shot the breeze for a bit before he headed off to work.
A very, very brief time after he walked out the door, he came bursting back in saying "Man... Turn on CNN - you've got to see this. There's something wierd on the radio."...
I thought for a number of long minutes that I'd hit the wrong channel - that I was watching a trailer from some new Arnie flik: True Lies 3 or something. I actually had to hit the [Info] button on the remote and doublecheck the channel. Yup. CNN. As real as it gets. "Something wierd", indeed.
That was when the second plane hit the towers.
He had to leave for work right about then... I barely registered it. Numb... no emotions yet to what was on the screen. The anger came later. And the shock.
Lileks: War, Day Two."I hold on to the anger; I turn it on the lathe, hold it up to the light, test its point. Because the moment I put it down I will lose all composure, and there will be no end to the tears."
No tears. Not ever.
Rage though.... that hits later. Much later.
For now though.... I spend the day in a merciful blur of activity. There's too many things to do. There's probably a couple of people in this thread that remember that blur of activity - they were there with me, all three days, non stop.
Icq is online constantly. I move a television into the computer room. Don't want to miss the news, not see something that might be critical. The phone rings almost continually, sometimes relatives, sometimes friends, often my roomie calling from his job with something new that he heard on the radio, or saw on a different channel. 20+ Icq windows up at times... and easily as many IE windows and threads.
I spend a good part of the first day on edge with several friends, wondering if their families were in one of the two buildings. With one, wondering if their friend was on one of the planes... thankfully not, but no way to tell at the time.
We start a forum at Renderosity, a place for everyone to gather together, post news, ask for news, ask about friends and family in New York or DC. Lestat and I volunteer to moderate it. IIRC, Rimrunner pitches in as well to help. Lestat, I think, helps to keep me sane those three days, especially the first one. We start a community donations fund for 9/11 victims among the merchants. Keeps me too busy to sleep. Start a new Lileks: War, Day Three"The planes are landing again. I saw them fly over the house tonight and I wanted to, and did, cheer. Waved them past. Gnat waved hello as well. It’s a heartening sight."
Does anyone remember the missing plane?
We all remember the ones that hit the towers, the pentagon, and the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.
I was watching one of the newsfeeds when it was being tracked. And when it never came on again... as if the sky had swallowed it, and erased the memory of it from everyone's mind. I mention that there was another hijacked airliner to most people, and I get blank incomprehension.
It was there though, and it was last tracked over Virginia... and then nothing. I know at least 4 people who remember the clip I'm thinking of, because we were discussing all of this real time as it was happening... Icq, phone...
There is a Smith & Wesson Model 29 in my desk, loaded. Has been since shortly after the news hit. Comforting and absolutely useless. As is the 12ga by the back door, and the .303 Enfield in the front room.
*shrug* Most things that are comforting are useless... keeping your feet under the covers so the monsters can't grab them.... the lock on the front door that won't stop anyone with a crowbar who's determined to get in. We do them anyway, and we take comfort none the less.
Going quietly into the darkness isn't an option.
Lileks: War, Day Four"I don’t know how to say this - it might seem to be my imagination, but when I look at what I shot, I did not have the feeling of looking back at some innocent era free from worry. I’ve had this wierd feeling for months, maybe longer: something was due. As Andrew Sullivan pointed out last week, it’s almost a grim relief - the truth of what we face has been presented. The commissions that study terrorist threats no longer have their reports covered on A5 of the paper before disappearing into the grey slurry-pit of Washington policymaking. We’re awake now.
Some of us are too awake. There were arabic and arabic looking men dragged out of cabs in Manhatten and beaten or lynched. In Dallas as well... that didn't get the news coverage it should have. Networks afraid they'd encourage it by focusing on it? As mayhaps they're afraid they'll incite by memorialising 9/11, three years later?
It should bother me that I can listen to the few acounts of these things than cross my screen, without feeling an ounce of pity or horror.
There's a mental shrug that notes that it's both tragic and useless - The Enemy isn't them, it's elsewhere - and a bit of regret that those people aren't striking where it counts. And a bit of pride that those incidents are blessedly few.... we are proving better than that, overall. In the face of the kaliedoscope of death and horror scrolling across the TV screen, I would have expected more incidents like that. More destruction of Mosques and similar.
There is also no satisfaction in me over those reports, and that is sufficient.
And there's also an awareness in the back of my mind that I yet have a column to write for Renderosity, somehow in the face of all of this - and I have nothing to say....
I watch. I track news. I relay messages. I answer threads. I even stomp on a few incidents of anti-arabism in a forum or two I moderate - hard and ruthlessly. Not because I can't understand or sympathise with it - I can - but because it's too easy to go there.
It's too easy to become the beast in the face of horror. We are a mirror, and we become what we reflect. Too hard to pull back from the edge once you've crossed it....
Lileks: October, Week One" I watched that CNN doc on Afghanistan last night, “Behind the Veil,” which contains a public execution of a woman at a Kabul sports complex built by the UN. A Taliban spokesman says, in a reasonable voice, that if the international community does not like executions performed in this sports complex, they should help the Taliban build a dedicated facility for the purpose.
I just felt the blood drain out of my body. These men do not deserve to live."
And it's not neccessary to hate the enemy. It's only neccessary to deal with them.
I am perhaps a bit too cold blooded: while watching the savages dancing in the streets in the Mid-East, celebrating the destruction of the towers, and hearing my liberal roommate on the couch saying "That's enough... we need to nuke those people flat", the cold appraisal in the back of my mind suggests that that's not only perfectly reasonable - it's about 30 years overdue.
As has been observed, we Americans are a lot of things... but we are not always nice people. Nice is highly overrated at times... and I suspect that before this is done, a few people are going to encounter this concept head on, and be horrified by it.
If the International Community does not like executions performed in this new arena, they should get the fuck out of the way.
Lileks: War, Day Four"I’m tired tonight. I’m tired of people who can watch 5,000 people from 62 nations burned alive and crushed to death, and think: well, you know you had this coming. I’m tired of people who presume I am ignorant of history because I hang a flag. No: .Not tired. Annoyed. Annoyed like I was while walking Jasper Dog tonight, and passed the great high school football field at the end of the block. It was lit like noon, with huge banks of lights lluminating the field, blaring through the thick autumn fog. Grunts and shouts and whistles blowing. As natural and ordinary a September sight as you’ll see, and all I could think of were the lights hoisted over the site of the World Trade Center, casting flat dead light over men who pulled the arms and legs of people from the rubble.
It angered me that this ordinary sight had been soiled - then I thought: That’s where we are now. Think of it. Think of it when you turn the corner and the lights fade. Never forget.
Day Four for me as well. Long, long past 72 hours with no sleep. I hadn't just woken up on the 11th when the towers were destroyed - that was well into my "morning". The files I'd been working on on my workstation are still open, untouched since.
It's amazing to me that in spite of the shock, how people managed to come together in this. In the forums, online, on Icq, on long distance phone. The outpouring of support is immense.... German, French, Australian... all the differences melted. If I could feel right now, I'd probably be warmed by it.
And I'd probably have a cynical voice in the back of my head that says "It isn't going to last".
Meals are something you wolf down in passing. My entire household has been glued to the TV and the news. Sleep is something you grab in catnaps... minutes at a time. You close your eyes and you see the images from the screen... and you don't want to go there. Not now. Not yet. Coffee is your friend.
It's like a wake. Neighbors and cousins have been coming in and out for the past three days.... bringing food, just dropping in to talk. A few from down the street with no internet dropping by to see if "Oso del Hierro" has anything new off of the 'Net... anything that the TV news hasn't picked up.
Sadly, all too often I do. And little of it's good news or images by any stretch. Too many people never made it out of those towers... and too many more died going in trying to help them.
Heroism and murder. And baboons dancing in the streets, firing Ak-47's. The face of the old enemy hasn't changed in 20+ years - and it is ever the face of Pennywise.
It's good to be not alone though. Good to not have to deal with the images alone, talk to the family members of victims alone on Icq. Helps to know that there's others who can't find words in the face of this.... And some who can:
Lileks: October, Week One"Here’s a definition of the times in which we find ourselves: a jet gets blown up by an errant rocket, a Florida man comes down with anthrax, the Afghan refugee camps are swept by an Ebola-style bleed-from-all-available-exits disease, and it’s not necessarily a big news day. A brisk one, yes, but nothing to get excited about. The sight of the two tall towers coming down set the standard for News. Military action by US forces will be the only thing to really set pulses galloping again."
Column is written in a dead heat and mailed in... the lack of words is the central theme. There are no words for murder of this magnitude. Only a terrible, echoing silence.
Those behind it, and those who sympathise and apologise, would do well to fear what will come to fill those silences....
Finally hit the point of no mas... need sleep, coffee's not doing it any more. And staring at the screen and Icq's become intolerable. Made a fast inventory of the pantry and fridge... definately time to make a walk to the store and grab a few staples. 'Sides... need to get out of the house - find out if the world still exists.
A reflex I haven't had for over a decade... pass the closet on the way out the door, put on the shoulder holster with the Taurus and the DeVries' combat knife next to the magazine pouches. Check clip, chamber and saftey. Check edge. Slip Viper II behind right hip. Check wallet for CCP.
Comfortable as breathing. Natural as death. Unarmed = Naked. Fascinating how you can slip back 20 years by reflex...
Well, not quite. 20 years ago, it'd have been a PSG-1 and an Hk-53. And probably not a trip to the store.
Lileks: October, Week One"Watching TV of the Saudi prince (which doesn’t narrow it down, I know; they have princes like we have Kennedys) touring the rubble today. I thought he looked familiar, and for a second I saw him as Father Guido Sarducci in a robe. Al Qudo Sar-duqqi, perhaps. He gave $10 million dollars, then gave us a piece of his mind admonishing us for our foreign policy. Rudy gave him the check back. That’s the spirit. When New York gets its first spaceport, it’s going to be named after Guiliani."
World's still there. Pretty fucking bright too - vivid technicolor, like I haven't seen it since.... too long ago. And not nearly long enough... Don't go there. Too easy to drop into that mindset just now...
Make mental note to have the guy upstairs hit the freaking dimmer switch on that big yellow thing. Sheesh. 4 days after the Towers, it's supposed to be gloomy and raining, with tendrils of fog. We should have had the British do the set designs - the Brits know how to do mood weather. You ever see a funeral in one of those old British movies with the sun out?!? Hell no.
But it is very much like being in the bush... that world in living technicolor view, living in enemy territory... down to the fully alive sense of having nerve endings beyond your skin, down to the naked spot between the shoulderblades, viewing the world around you through crosshairs - and wondering what's viewing you back.
Damned odd in the middle of Dallas in 2001. And too damned comfortable for comfort.
The silence is the first thing that strikes you. Even the cars seem muted... not that there's less traffic than normal.
And the scream of planes overhead makes everyone on the street flinch. F-4's out of Carswell... You can tell it's a Phantom, too - nothing makes a sound like a Flying Brick. And F-15's. And you still flinch. There's been no civilian traffic over Dallas that I'm aware of for a couple of days. Helicopters, F-4's and the ocassional F-16.
Other firsts. First time I've ever seen a Huey wearing DPD colors. And a gunship too, not a slick. Didn't know the cops had those. Make mental note to pull the fuck over the next time a bullhorn suggests it. Bullhorn might be attached to one o' those.
Everyone wants to say something to people... a hello, a quick chat while in the grocery aisles, or talking with the checkers. And always the topic de jour comes up. Reassurance. "We are not alone... ". Spent time BS'ing with the store security guard, an ex-cop. Did not discuss 9/11, either of us. Talked dogs and hunting, instead.
A comforting note of normalcy in an abnormal world... I think both of us needed it. Suspect we've both been talking about the Towers too much the past few days.
And outside a vignette that paints the shape of the past few days: a huge black man, in US military undress, with decorations... just standing there. Tears streaming down his face, groceries sitting on the sidewalk, fists clenched.
Eyes meet and I can see him take in the jacket with the --------- Irregulars patch... we both nod and shrug.
Nothing to say that needs saying.
Lileks: 11/01/01 "Restless night. Had a bad dream - an Islamic Terrorist got in the house. Apparently I’d really made him mad a year before, and he’d sworn to show up a year later EXACTLY and kill everyone in the house. He wasn’t a terrorist then, but apparently he’d been busy the past 12 months. So I’m outside in the yard and he comes around the corner with a big grin: Hi, I’m back! And he has three rifles in bags slung around his shoulder. He forces everyone inside but falls asleep, which allows me to hide the guns in the potting shed and call 911. I get a cop who sounds like an old bored man who’d really rather be at the bingo parlor. I explain my situation, and he replies “well, that doesn’t sound like the sort of thing we do,” which sets me off: what do you mean? I scream. “Well, what if we showed up and it was a hoax? We’d look pretty stupid.” Now I’m really shouting - which of course wakes up the terrorist. Luckily, my dad’s here too, and he holds him down while I attempt to knock the guy out with a hammer. It doesn’t go very well. The terrorist is getting annoyed, but he’s not putting up much of a struggle. After about a dozen blows I’m getting a sore arm.
And I finally wake up. I’m still pissed at that cop, though."
Probably should have shot him with one of the rifles you took away, James. But... I know how it goes. Dreams are like that.
Slept the sleep of the dead after getting back from the store, finally. No dreams, thank gods.
Those come later.
Stream of unconciousness ramblings. That was then, while it was happening. This is now. The duration endures. The memories haven't faded.
"We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it
We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on... "
- B. Joel
Can't put it out, ever. But you can dampen it.
Can't ever forget why we fight it, either. Or what the consequences of not doing so are... even though there are plenty that would like us to. Love for us to bury it, forget it, turn it into a political point to turn elections on. It makes them uncomfortable to face head on that their philosophies not only may be based on air, but that there are people who'd rather not forget nor forgive, and who don't share The Vision - that root causes matter, and that if you placate enough, the face of the beast goes away.
Some of us are comfortable with the beast, and with holding the leash. And we're comfortable understanding that there are those who've become it... and comfortable with the realization that The World may not be big enough for both of us.
I don't agree with all of the things that have been done since 9/11 in the name of leashing the beast, and I, like Questor, have made small pretense of doing so. In my case, I fear it's an effort that's doomed simply because this isn't a war of conventional arms and flashy bombings - it's a war of special ops, counterinsurrgency, assassinations, intelligence, and targeted long term effort. There is some room for the conventional - you have to remove the infrastructure that supports the beast, but it's a small facet. And possibly a war that's unwinnable... but it is containable if you do it right.
As my friend Allen puts it, it's "Forever war!"
Where Allen falls off the edge of the world is when someone like me looks at that, shrugs, agrees and says "Yeah? You say that like it's a bad thing".
We didn't start this fire. But we can't co-exist with the people who did, I'm afraid. I can aim you at a very large number of people who share the same root causes: poverty, hopelessness, cultural contamination, supression of religion and native tongue, consignment to small and desolate areas, denied sovreinity by an ocupying European colonial establishment. Root causes out the ass, some of which Bin Laden, Hussein, and the Saudi's can't claim.
You don't see Cherokee, Commanche or Apache flying airliners into buildings. Or strapping on explosives and nails and blowing themselves up on city buses. Or executing our women in UN built public arenas. And it's not because we're not every bit as bloody and deadly a people as the Islamic Jihadi. A Bedouin and an Apache would look at each other and see instant kindred spirits. With one exception...
The modern Apache no longer lives in the 19th century nor considers Geronimo bashing small childrens brains out against the wall of a cabin an act of heroism and rebellion.
Y'know? I'm half amerind, but I can understand perfectly the New Mexicans and Arizonans who looked at Geronimo's handiwork and drawled: "You picked the wrong damned way to get our attention...". A lot better than I can understand Geronimo and why he thought that gutting children was making war. Partly at least... I do understand "Nits make lice" - I just disagree with it, both as Cherokee, as Texan, and as a man. Disagree with it way down deep where I live. It offends me.
It is a forever war... it's us against those who think it's acceptable to become the beast, to commit atrocity as a method of political statement, who think it's acceptable to take out an airliner full of people and two skyscrapers in the guise of whatever, who confuse "terrorism" and "guerilla action". It may be a forever war against those who think that it's acceptable to blather about root causes and multinationalism with people who'd just as soon smash them into a tower as well as those of us that aren't quite as accomodating.
And it's a forever war against those that would love the excuse to use all of this as a reason to sell their version of "security for just a little bit of freedom, we'll give it back, honest". Yeah? Throw in Manhatten and $24 worth of beads while you're at it, and we'll call it a deal. Not.
It's War to the Knife, because we can't afford to live in the same world you guys do.
Lileks: 09/05/02"I watched part of the CBS 9/11 special last night. (I don’t know if it’s been broadcast yet; I got the DVD at Target.) It is a pity that this particular historical record contains so much Bryant Gumbel, but it has its moments. In the middle of an interview with a woman who saw the first plane hit, she gasps Oh My God, another one - and it reminds you again of that moment, the point when you grasped exactly what was happening, and the ground swayed. I’d say it brought it all back but it never went away. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought about it.
That bothers some people. There’s an attitude in some quarters that there’s something unhealthy about thinking about 9/11, certainly in dwelling on the details. They’ll allow a certain amount of regret and dismay. They’ll permit you a brief spasm of anger, but it had best be followed with a nuanced assessment of American foreign policy. Remark that you had a nightmare about your daughter getting smallpox or a nuke in New York, and they’ll roll their eyes; tut tut the lad’s gone mad. These people are no doubt bracing themselves for the first anniversary, but for different reasons than you might have. They can’t stand people who won’t let go of 9/11. Once they washed the ash off their car it was over for them; why can’t it be over for everyone? Do you really think your inability to move along makes you a better person? Stop waving the bloody shirt. Send it to the cleaners already, and leave Iraq alone."
Why can't it be over for everyone? Because there's still people out there who'd like to drive another plane into a building in LA, or Houston, or London, or Paris, or Berlin... simply to enjoy the death, while mouthing nifty words about martyrdom and injustice. And all the while, it's nothing more than the simple, atavistic ghoulish relish of that magical moment when life ceases to be, wrapped in mysticism and [hopefully] misinterpretations of what Mohammed said. I hope it's misinterpretation. Gods help us if it isn't. And gods help them.
That's why people like myself, like Michelle, like Jade, and like Rachel aren't particularly thrilled by the networks decision to sweep the 11th behind the rug of Oprah, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, West Wing and Survival: The South Bronx.
It's a bad choice. It breeds the same kind of indifference and complacency that directly led to the 30+ years of placate and [mis]understand that caused 9/11. A deadly misapprehension that that sort of thing is tolerable.
Screw that. Show us the coverage. Make it a National Memorial Day like Pearl Harbor Day. Show us the people jumping from the towers... and also show us the people who've moved on and put it behind them. Show us the memorial services, the families of the dead firemen and cops and how they're coping now - or not - and show us the plans for the new WTC and the winners of the design contests. Show us Guiliani standing outside the rubble with tears streaming down his face. Show us the Islamic Jihadis dancing in the streets and celebrating the destruction. Show the footage of the people from all over the world coming together for one brief, shining moment... and sharing in grief and determination. All of it. And deal with the emotions that it conjures up...
You are doing us a disservice by shutting it away. And you are doing yourself one also - you are destroying what little credibility and trust in your institution you still have among us. Destroying any chance that some day, someone like us might say the word "Media" without a sneer.
Because we're not going to forget. Some of us still have the tapes we burned on that day. Some of us still have the articles we wrote, the forum posts, the emails we sent and recieved, the Icq histories, and the video clips. Some of us will always have the images burned into our minds. Some of us still have the dreams... and we're more than happy to share them with the people that you've decided shouldn't see those memories. Don't bother telling us "Just put it behind you now." We're not listening.
We don't really give a fuck what you've decided we should or shouldn't see.
We can not afford to forget: there are people who will "memorialise" it, and they do not have our best interests at heart. Nor yours.
Never forget. And may the gods help us... Never Again.
"It's there in my eyes and coming straight from my heart
It's running silent and angry and deep
But it's there in my eyes so can't you see me tonight
C'Mon and look at me and read 'em and weep "
- Jim Steinman
"Last night I bolted out of a sound sleep screaming at the top of my lungs. Oh, man, I'll never get tired of that.... "
Remember - It's Radio Free... That small still voice in the back of yer head, quietly smothering the rest.
I had that dream I quoted at the beginning in variations for six months after 9/11/01... never the same, always the same theme. Opening the front door onto darkness and gunfire and death and jungle. And then it stopped... only to start again a month or so before 9/11/02. And again now, anniversary 03. A bit like an old enemy: you don't care for it, but it's comfortable after a time.
When there's enough distance between the memories and the reality, when we can look at the pictures of the lost and the grief is dulled, when we can watch the news and know the murderers are gone, when there's justice for the dead.... when our children and godchildren don't flinch at the sound of an airliner overhead, when the towers are rebuilt... when the dreams stop - then we move on.
'Til then... don't tell us to "Just get over it already".
Lileks: 09/05/02"Little Christine was Gnat’s age, give or take a month; bin Laden’s lackeys killed her - and did so to ensure that other fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters died as well, preferably by the tens of thousands. This little girl’s death wasn’t even a comma in the manifesto they hoped to write. They made sure that her last moments alive were filled with horror and blood, screams and fear; they made sure that the last thing she saw was the desperate faces of her parents, insisting that everything was okay, we’re going to see Mickey, holding out a favorite toy with numb hands, making up a happy lie. And then she was fire and then she was ash.
I feel the same anger I did on 9/11; I feel the same overwhelming grief. Nothing in my heart has changed, and God forbid it ever does."
* All due apologies to Lileks for swiping his quotes in this. In all the time since 9/11/01, I've yet to see anyone who put things better than he did. As elegant as a knife, as subtle as a punch in the stomach. Nice to see that we still have Bards amongst us.
- Ironbear, 9/11/03.
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