The Seven-Year Itch

Seven years ago today, we woke up to a frantic friend’s phone call telling us to switch on the tv. The image of a pair of towers smoking, in flames, has been on a playback loop ever since. The image has been captured, framed, and delivered from so many different visual perspectives and political platforms, by so many people, for so many people. A monumental image in its multiple imprints to fill this monumentally empty crater blasted out of space and time by mad men.

What have we, collectively and individually, done with this image, this absence? As a nation, we’ve decided to fight. Given in to an endless rage that’s begun to erase the boundaries that define a democracy. Scratched the primal itch for war, for many wars. As an individual, what have I decided? This is a crucial question (and thus, the 40+ day blogging hiatus…)

In an attempt to remember an event that changed my life so viscerally, I thought I’d borrow Judith Butler’s words. She writes in “Precarious Life”, a selection of five essays on the “Powers of Mourning and Violence” (Verso, 2004).

That we can be injured, that others can be injured, that we are subject to death at the whim of another, are all reasons for both fear and grief. What is less certain, however, is whether the experiences of vulnerability and loss have to lead straightaway to military violence and retribution. There are other passages. If we are interested in arresting cycles of violence to produce less violent outcomes, it is no doubt important to ask what, politically, might be made of grief besides a cry for war

…What role will we assume in the historical relay of violence, who will we become in the response…?

After the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army adopted the slogan “Be All That You Can Be”. After 20 years in use, it was dropped for the current “An Army of One”. Is that what we have become? Individuals fighting a perpetual war?

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