By Shane Dingman
Am I the first person in North America who is grotesquely tired of any sentence containing the words “since the events of Sept. 11”?
Sept. 11 is the goat, the grease on the skids of excuses across the world. Economy going south? Gotta be Sept. 11. Milk sour? Sept. 11. Children snapping back at you? Sept. 11.
I was close to crying when baseball, my beloved game, the sport I most identify with and enjoy, was turned into yet another stage where the national psychodrama of “since Sept. 11,” was played out. The World Series, essential a show down of two expensive teams of veterans and mercenary sharp shooters, ballooned into an epic struggle. There were the Yankees, miscast as the plucky little team, facing off against the invaders from the desert, the Diamondbacks. During the post-season, New York — the greatest pro-sports dynasty in North America with 27 world series championships — miraculously became the underdog. How in the name of the ever-humping dog did that ever happen? Because they happened to come from the most victimized city in America. Everyone ignored the fact that this team had destroyed the competition three years running, as they “battled back” from early defeats against Oakland. Somehow the faux feistiness factor kept baseball fans who normally hate the damn Yankees cheering for the pinstriped machine as it mowed down the Seattle Mariners, only the winningest team in baseball. Tell me how you destroy a mega-team like Seattle was this year and still get billed as the underdogs against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Oh yeah, the Yankees were plugging away for all those fallen firemen and cops, so I should stop pissing on their uplifting play. Crap. Baseball players go through their careers counting everything along the way to victory as a testament to their own skill as an insurance policy during the next round of contract talks. It is blindness to think of this gladiatorial hacking as symbolism for a city or a nation. But Americans specialize in that kind of blindness, so whatever.
If you want to know what the real story of Since Sept. 11 is, you have to look beyond fatuous navel gazing. How about Paul Koring in the Globe and Mail pointing out that since Sept. 11 more than 1,000 people, mostly Arab men, have been detained without trial and without charge? Aren’t they the legitimate victims of Sept. 11 and not the New York fucking Yankees?
Another more honest version of Since Sept. 11 is criticism about the slapdash creation of the coalition against terrorism. WBEZ in Chicago’s great radio show This American Life available at www.thislife.org, ruthlessly parodied the effort last week on their program. Writer and performer Tami Sagher imagines America must have seemed like it was making awkward phone calls to long-neglected ex-girlfriends. “Hey Pakistan, how are you, it’s America. Jeez, I didn’t recognize your voice, that’s so funny. Aaahhh, so didja hear I’m forming a coalition? No that’s not the reason I’m calling… Now don’t get testy, c’mon… I swear I called you before I called India.” Bloody hell, Pakistan has been supporting terrorist guerrillas in Kashmir for years, and they’re the front line ally in a war on terrorism? Hide the china and chain the dog up, a bunch of gullible frat boys are running our foreign policy.
Moronic unsupportable outbursts are certainly on the rise Since Sept. 11, like those made by Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair. Irony is dead, he intoned. Sure, so is innocence, America’s naivete, tourism, frequent flyer miles and the economy, according to various geeks and chuckleheads. The irony is that anyone could say puckey like that with any seriousness. My poor head fairly spins trying to get traction on the ridiculous landscape we all seem to inhabit now.
Ever Since Sept. 11. Gad, it’s just too easy to say it, too easy to use it, and too easy to forget what the world was like before. Maybe if the world really has changed, and I suspect it has not, our society will scrap the old A.D. system of marking the years and switch to ES0911. I don’t buy that the first victim of this “war” was truth. First, I dispute that the conflict with Osama bin Laden can be disconnected from America’s cowboy diplomacy of the last 50 years. Second, I contend the first victims of the era, which is still going strong and inflaming the passions of so many ideological enemies, was honesty.
I’m not talking about the surface level Rebecca Eckler-style maundering of self, or the sly and hip parodies of ourselves we see in the movies. I’m talking the deep reflective honesty that the great possess and the weak mock. America isn’t being honest about what’s happening Since Sept. 11, not with itself and not with the world. Which means that nothing has really changed Since… and more the pity for it.