WORLD TRADE CENTRE MEMORIES

February 5, 2007

First thing in the morning five years, one day ago; I remember. My flatmate was giggling nervously against the usual background of morning TV bullshit. The bullshit was normal but the giggling wasn’t. My eyes focused halfway thru my first caffeine fix on the smouldering twin towers. The coffee ran cold. The normal TV bullshit wasn’t the normal TV bullshit, not today.

Like a chain smoker expects lung cancer to show up; I knew it was coming. But I wasn’t expecting it that morning. Not then. That’s the first thing I thought NOT NOW!! There’s a cowboy in the White House and a toady in the Lodge. But who better to pick a fight with than people who’ll start one without thinking twice or even once.

The next thing I thought (callously) was at least they didn’t get any of the really important buildings. They didn’t get the Chrysler building, they didn’t get the Empire State. That was cold, but I have to admit it. The effects of TV brothers and sisters, you see death and disaster every day and the experience makes it somehow unreal. I was thinking of the architecture.

Then I began to think about the real people getting killed. And all the real people who were about to get killed. And most of them just doing whatever it was they do. In New York, in Afghanistan, in Iraq still. Ordinary people who have no control over events losing limbs, and loved ones, their lives because of decisions taken by shady persons unknown.

I worked with three Muslim women at the time. No-one said anything disparaging that day. Not to them, they were well-liked. But the next day two of them were late because of abuse suffered at the tram stop. The third, Turkish, didn’t wear a headscarf ’til then. She favoured the modern style. But after that she wore one every day. Solidarity, if muslims were to be abused she’d take it on the chin like the rest of them. Something still not understood these days.

Now the country’s awash with anti-muslim this and that. All maintained under a facade of “Australian values”. But what we really mean is choose: “us or them”. It’s almost as if the failure of muslims to overtly support everything America’s done in the middle-east is an active declaration of support for terrorism. The middle ground has fallen away like an earthquake chasm. People have to cling to one side or the other, flinging stones across.

And what’s the result? An invasion of Afghanistan resulting in that country reverting (again) to medieval fragments. An endless, increasingly complicated insurgency war in Iraq for some reason. Sure Hussein’s a bastard but he wasn’t involved in 9/11. And we were doing business with him til recently. If we want to spread democracy why don’t we start with Burma? They have an elected leader who’s now in her second decade under house arrest. They want democracy. Or why don’t we improve our own democracies, lead by example?

Sadly not. Instead our democratic rights have been rolled back in the name of preserving our democratic rights. And the hypocrisy which so infuriates the rests of the world has been amplified. We simply refuse to admit any culbability in this our new world scenario. This is the test brothers and sisters. Democracy – use it or we lose it.

I remember many hushed and extremely diplomatic private conversations that day. People dancing around their own opinions. Trying to say the right thing. Walking to the pub a friend and I heard someone say: “yeah. I’m glad America got it!” on the phone. We laughed. Cold again but we couldn’t help it. No-one had said it but everyone was thinking it.

Now all I can do is light a candle. A useless tribute to the hundred thousands plus who’ve perished. And all those still to come. AMEN

Tuesday Sep 12 2006

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