Like most discussions of 9/11 these days, this one seems almost…quaint.
History shows that great and dominant societies can survive a great number of awful things without succumbing to collapse, but that they rarely outlast the gradual disintegration of national self-confidence. With this in mind, consider the words of one Michael Shulan, who “really believes” that “the way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently.” Mr. Shulan, who is the creative director of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, also expressed his distaste at what he called the “rah-rah America” instinct.
Well, given what people like him have turned America into he’s pretty much gotten his wish, at least as far as I’m concerned. The United Socialist Surveillance States of America commands no allegiance, affinity, loyalty, or affection from me whatsoever, and its descent into futility, decline, and relative helplessness is not something I’m at all concerned about, except insofar as it affects me and mine directly. Otherwise, let it rot.
The job of a curator is to curate, and nobody would expect Mr. Shulan to remain quiet if he had legitimate artistic differences. But the interesting question here is why Mr. Shulan — or anyone, for that matter — would find distasteful or “simplistic” the inclusion of photographs of American firefighters responding to mass murder in an exhibition that venerates the very same.
“My concern,” Shulan explained, “as it always was, is that we not reduce [9/11] down to something that was too simple, and in its simplicity would actually distort the complexity of the event, the meaning of the event.”
The never-ending search for complexity where it neither exists nor belongs is the unlovely signet of the pseudo-intellectual. What, precisely, are America’s flag-waving rubes missing about the events of September 11, 2001? What does the photograph show that “distorts” anything? If Mr. Shulan disagrees with Rudy Giuliani’s admirably Manichean statement that, the attacks of 9/11 being “an attack on the very idea of a free, inclusive, and civil society,” “we are right and they are wrong,” then he should say so. He might tell us also what he conceives to be the apparently unknowable “meaning of the event.” Absent an explanation, we should presume that the curator of the 9/11 Memorial Museum considers that there was a better time for firemen to be “vigilantly and so vehemently American” than the day their city crashed down around them. This is unacceptable.
The only surprise here is that they’re not including a section mourning the loss of those fine, upstanding Saudi boys who committed the attacks, and who, after all, were only victims themselves.
The thing that always seemed so highly ironic to me is this: the very liberal-fascists who have always despised this country the most, denouncing it as imperialistic, too unfairly prominent on the world stage, and above all abusive of its power to an extremely immoral degree…are the very ones who unceasingly demand that we give that same government more power. It’s like this:
And as usual, they can’t even begin to see the problem with their way of “thinking.”
Cooke is mostly right in the article, of course, but as Ace argues and I’ve flatly stated, he’s promoting patriotic feeling for a country that no longer exists:
Cooke’s column ends with some “rah-rah American patriotism” that I myself disagree with. He proclaims that among the nations of the West, the Anglosphere is superior; and among the Anglosphere, the American nation stands out.
I think he’s thinking nostalgically. That may have been true six year ago but it is not true today. America truly is now an “ordinary” country, just as Obama always believed. He has transformed his belief into reality.
Nostalgia, indeed. Nothing really wrong with that, but it’s important to recognize it for what it is.