Saturday, September 11, 2004

Denial of 9-11

Unlike last year, I'll try to mark the anniversary of 9-11 with few words.

There are many people who worry that 9-11 is going to be forgotten, that it would be denied its significance as epoch-changing event and that any positive lessons of that terrible day are going to be forgotten. Some of those worries are motivated by petty politics (especially in USA today when remembering September 11th seems to favour one party at the expense of other) while other people worry out of genuine concern for the well-being of this planet.

Of course, it was foolish to think that people could grasp the real importance of 9-11 on September 12th 2001. Only the passage of time and subsequent events put everything into proper perspective. Perhaps not enough time has passed.

On the other hand, some people want to move on and refuse to have their lives revolved around those two fallen towers. Other issues seem to be more relevant for this world, some of them not being directly link to 2001 tragedy. Tendency to forget unpleasant events and paint the past in rosy pictures is human and universal. 9-11 simply can't evade this phenomenon.

But I also noticed phenomenon that simply couldn't be attributed to suppression of bad memories. Some people don't try to forget. They try, and try very hard, to deny.

In other words, 9-11 simply didn't happen, or at least didn't have as much effect and importance for the world as most people had believed in 2001.

This denial could be found in two forms.

The first one simply views tragedy of 9-11 as freak incident, result of criminal ineptness and negligence of one accidentally elected presidential administration. Tragic but unique set of circumstances have conspired to result in a tragic and unique event. This event has never happened before and never will. Therefore, in the long run, it is inconsequential. Once the dust settles, the bereaved will start to move on with their lives, new skyscrapers are going to be built and the real issues are again going to be taxes or Nicole Kidman's romantic partner.

Another form of denial is in the new interpretations, conspiracy theories and attempts to shift the ultimate responsibility for 9-11 to anyone but the people who had those flights. Many people in the world are utterly convinced that 9-11 was the work of CIA, Mossad, Pentagon and, last but not least, Bush administration –the tragedy occurred with US government's prior knowledge (and/or) tacit approval .This is partly fuelled by rampaging anti-Americanism that dominates today's world, but the true motive could be found in something less political and tribal.

The real reason why so many point finger towards Americans as the only people responsible for their own national tragedy could be found in universal psychology. 9-11 was traumatic not only for the world's greatest superpower, but also for the people all the world. The world on September 12th 2001 looked much uglier than on September 10th 2001. Most people simply couldn't and still can't deal with the real implication of this event.

I noticed this in trying to filter Croatian media and blogosphere's reactions to Beslan massacre. When trying to explain the unexplainable, fathom the unfathomable and give some rational framework for the disturbing images of naked and bloody children, most chose not to mention words like "terrorists" or "hostage-takers". Most pointed fingers towards Putin. Slobodna Dalmacija used title "Putin's Russian Roulette in Northern Ossetia" Leaves Hundreds of Children Killed". One Croatian blog claims that Putin "decided to solve the crisis with guns" and also claims that there were peaceful alternatives.

Such perspectives Beslan are less motivated with Croatian people's antipathy towards Putin's Russia or criticism (in many ways justified) over their handling of Chechnya. No, they are nothing more than attempt to put some rationality in the events that defy all reason.

Simply, it is easier to imagine Beslan being the part of cold political calculation from Kremlin. It is unbearable to think that there are some creatures who resemble humans but who torture, rape and kill little children in front of whole world in order to achieve some rational aim. Putin is described as "Sauron" and most people would view Beslan in that way rather than accept the world ruled by brainless Orcs.

This perspective on Beslan mirrors the perspective on 9-11. It is unbearable to think that the world's greatest superpower was brought on its knees by 19 men armed with boxcutters. If this happened to mighty Americans, it could also happen to weaker countries or individuals. It is simpler to think of 9-11 as part of some sinister plan than to invest intellectual capacities thinking about random horrors.

This desire, very human and very understandable, should be resisted. Succumbing to fear and paranoia at the expense of life's joys is one thing. Denial of danger in a vain hope that it would go away is another. Both are very wrong. If people find a way to avoid those two traps in years and decades to come, the world will be much better place than it was on September 11th 2001.


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