Monthly Archives: February 2010

Ground Zero and the American Psyche

The connection between the state of New York’s Ground Zero and the way Americans are coping with grief from 9/11.

What We Could Have

Last night’s 60 Minutes had a fascinating, infuriating piece about Ground Zero, the big hole in New York that still remains after the Twin Towers fell almost a decade ago.  The piece follows the perspective primarily of Larry Silverstein, the “New York real estate tycoon” who had hopes to revive Ground Zero into something more splendid even than what stood there before.  Actually, to be honest, I never thought the Twin Towers were all that interesting to look at, but I respect their significance, even before 9/11.

About 3 years after September 11th, I started to hear people wonder out loud why nothing outside of cleanup had happened at Ground Zero.  Over the years since, it has flared up in the media in waves occasionally, but for the vast majority of the time no one  has been talking about it in any truly public voice that I’ve heard.

The interviews and perspective presented last night on 60 minutes were grisly to say the least.  According to them, it has been a combination of bureaucracy, faulty leadership and a lack of effective communication that has stopped a number of riveting skyscrapers, a beautiful memorial and museum, and a freaking sweet train station.  Though some buildings may be done by 2014 (only 13 years after the disaster!), the majority of them do not have a set construction date, which may mean never ever ever.

What We Have

Now there’s  just a big empty hole.  It’s ugly, useless and eating up billions of dollarsA hole is what remains from the most traumatic moment in American history. Though I have no doubt that 60 Minutes was right in saying that it is primarily disorganization and selfishness that is stopping Ground Zero from going forward.  But one thing 60 Minutes didn’t cover, probably intentionally, is the fascinating metaphor that can be drawn between the United States and this hole.

How does a child act after she has been traumatized?  Imagine a little boy who’s mother and father were killed in a car accident, or a teenager who is dealing with physical abuse.

How did we act after September 11th?  We were scared, and angry, and confused.  Shell shocked and enraged, we lashed out, and quickly.  We punched and kicked two nations that weren’t responsible, but were simple targets.  We turned on ourselves, almost like a schizophrenic; we simultaneously berated ourselves and lifted ourselves on a pedestal.  In short, we did not act very rationally after 9/11.  We were like a child.  Which makes sense, as we are still such a young nation.

So, if you’re still with me on this analogy.  America is no longer shocked.  We have accepted what happened, though I don’t think we’ve gotten to starting to think about the true, actual reasons why it happened.  That comes later.  First we must grieve.  Grieving is the most important step to moving on with things, which is what our nation desperately needs.  We must let go of that day, not forget it, but reconcile with it.  But we can’t do that until we all truly stop being angry.  Angry at ourselves and angry at anyone else involved.  Just like childhood trauma, a young nation’s first trauma is the most haunting.

I imagine some people will read this as unpatriotic.  I admit, I don’t have anyone close to me who died as a result of these attacks.  But I do know that what our nation has become since 9/11 is not a healed creature.  We are deeply wounded, and the severe split that those two planes ripped between the people of this country has done nothing but get wider and wider since.  We have split so far apart, that now I seed a terrible, sad, hole in the center of all things American.  Our fear that we transformed predominately into anger rather than national sadness has ripped a hole right through us.

But imagine if we didn’t do it that way.  Imagine if we had built up around that split.  Taken the pain and turned it into something more healthy and stronger: a better version of our previous self.  That is what we could have done.

And that is what we could have done at Ground Zero.  If the bureaucrats in charge can’t pull together and move forward on the project, perhaps it’s partially because we can’t move on as a people.  It’s easier to leave it as a hole than it is to say goodbye to what was destroyed there.

These two things effect each other in an infinite cycle.  If we were to fill the void at Ground Zero with a park, a museum, a sky screaper, a memorial, a train station, a green house, whatever as long as it were new and fresh and beautiful, we would have an easier time moving on as a country.  It wouldn’t be a sick reminder in the back of our collective head, but something to refresh us and help us let go.  In the same vein, if we were to let go, to both give out and seek out apologies, it might be easier to replace what was knocked down in New York City.

Or am I way off the mark here?

The Military is So Gay

My counter-arguments for the dumb supporters of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Please let us kill people.

America has been so enraptured with the movement to allow gays to marry those that they love, that it came as a sort of “Oh yea, I remember that” moment when Obama brought up gays in the military in his State of the Union address.  Of course, no mention of gay marriage was made in the speech.  Personally I’d rather get married than kill Iraqis, but that’s just me.

Even though I’m a peace-nick, I of course believe that gays should be allowed to kill, KILL, KILL just like our heterosexual brethren.  As I said in an earlier post, there is a simple formula for figuring out why gay people want something from society.  Ask yourself, “Do straight people enjoy this right?”  If you answer yes, then gay people want to be able to do it too.  Therefore, since straight folks are allowed to murder people who disagree with the US, gay people should be allowed to do so as well.  Furthermore, we ought to be able to do it as an openly gay people, because, well we are gay.

Even though it’s clear as crystal to me and most smart people, including the top military commander and the godforsaken President of the United states, there are still some dumb-dumbs (John McCain, I’m looking at you) who don’t get it.  So, for those who don’t, I’m going to tackle some of their idgit arguments right now.  Here we go.

First, let’s start with the stereotypes, as those are some of the most common dumb-dumb arguments.  I can’t believe I still have to debunk these things, but…

Gays are Wimps

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m kind of a wuss sometimes.  I don’t like dogeball, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t make a good soldier.  However, the same could be said for my heterosexual father (though he probably likes dodgeball, the man literally is unable to kill a fly).  Basically, if you are making this argument, you don’t think you know any gay people.  You see the Jacks and Wills on TV, and you assume that if you ever encountered a gay in the wild he would be lisping and sparkling like a vampire.  I say think because everyone who knows more than 14 people knows a gay person.  If you think all gays are wimps, that means the gay people you know are probably self-hating, in denial, or simply too angry at you to share who they really are.  But aside from this, it also means that they must be pretty masculine.  So, this logic, like all logic behind stereotypes, is fatally flawed.  As this article succinctly puts it, “like heterosexuals, gays and lesbians range across a broad spectrum from weak to strong, from sexually passive to sexually predatory, from very feminine to very masculine.”

Also, need I mention that this argument doesn’t cover lesbians, who, if unleashed, could conquer the Middle East with little more than a machete?

Gays are Sexual Predators

This one is funny.  I’ve heard this argument go two ways.

First, gay people will be distracted by their sexy, sexy fellow soldiers on the front lines.  Even with bullets whizzing by their heads, gay dudes will spring a boner with all that sweat and flexing muscle.  Though I don’t have any personal experience in battle, I do know that I rarely get horny when I’m afraid for my life.  I don’t think that anyone, gay or straight, would ignore impending death because they were horny.  And furthermore, are straight dudes so able to suppress their arousal that they aren’t turned on by the female soldiers fighting by their side?  I doubt it.

Secondly, people fear that gays will hit on or rape their heterosexual fellow officers.  I want to point out, before I go on, that rape wouldn’t be a new thing in the military.  So enough with the double standards, straight people.

It’s been a nice little fantasy for straight people that all gay men are so turned on by straight guys that they can’t control themselves.  I’ve met many-a straight man that believes I’m drooling over him whenever he turns his back.  To be honest, straight men, a lot of you are just gross.  See below.

A really gross straight man.

I’ll admit, however, that there are some straight men out there that get my juices flowing.  I have no doubt there’s quite a few in the military.  However, most gay people, after going through many difficult years  of being harrassed or abused for doing nothing other than walking down the street, know now that hitting on a straight man is a BAD idea.  Especially when they have a gun at hand.  So this argument is irrational and, if I can be so bold, egotistical.

Gays Will Disrupt Unit Cohesion

I’m going to try and avoid all of the good jokes I could make about the phrase “unit cohesion”.    The idea here is that gay people will somehow cause the togetherness of military groups to fracture.  My first argument is that military training, with the shaving of heads and the degrading language, is designed solely to create unity among soldiers.  Assuming that gays are put through the same thing, they too will become unified with their fellow fighters.  Secondly, after scouring the internet for an answer, I can’t find anyone who can explain exactly why gay people specifically would cause disruption.  So, once again, this is an invalid claim.

Gay People Would Be Harassed by Homophobic Persons

This is the most well-meaning dumb-dumb argument, but it’s still flawed.  I have no doubt that the military is full of homophobic people.  I’m sure a small number of those homophobic people might act out on their craziness and hurt or kill a gay member of their platoon.  So, here’s a simple solution.  Ban homophobic people from the military.  It would be more cost efficient and save more man power.

How would we scan for homophobic people?  Well, studies show that homphobic men’s penises grow in circumference when they view gay porn.  So we’ll just show all soldiers who claim to be straight coming into the army some xtube.com videos and if their penis grows, then they don’t get to fight.

Of course I’m kidding, that would be strange and impractical.  However, suppose we aggressively and actively sought out and eliminated instances of homophobia in the military.  Couple that with education about equality and support during recruitment and training, and I think the unity of our armed forces would increase.  So suck on that, John McCain.

Friendships with Corporate Persons

The only upside I can see to the Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow corporations to fund political campaigns is the phrase “Corporate Persons”.  Every day American corporations are a humanized by the media and their own advertisements.  It’s flat out weird.  The entire concept of giving a big, scary, money-loving corporation the same rights as me is so bizarre I feel like the world has gone mad(der).  Hey, here’s a question, if corporations get the same rights as individuals, can a boy corporation marry another boy corporation?

Rather than discuss the horrors (or merits as some argue) of this ruling, I think it would be more fun to imagine what my life would be like if I actually had to be friends with the corporations I deal with on a daily basis.  I’m not a big consumer, so lucky for me I wouldn’t have as many corporate person-friends as some others.  But here are the ones I would have, and how I imagine our relationship would go.

Boost Mobile

Yes, I’m an owner of a boost mobile piece of poop cellphone.  As both a poor man and a frequent traveler, it helps not to be tied down to a contract.  I usually have my phone on me, even if I often screen calls.  So Boost Mobile would always be hanging out.

Appearance: I imagine a rather surly, methed-out yokel in their 20s.  Androgynous, spaced out (possibly tripping on some psychedelics that are not safe) but for the most part harmless.

Most Annoying Habit: Boost Mobile friend would be like my secretary.  Now, imagine the person described above trying to relay messages to me.  First, half of the messages I get s/he would keep to him/herself, or reveal them only after they were no longer relevant.  S/he’s even worse at sending out messages.  When I send him/her on a mission to text a friend, s/he often screams the message and pretends it urgent, even if it’s not.  S/he also is fond of putting in words or characters that I did not include in my original message.  And sometimes when I give him/her a task, s/he puts up his/her middle finger at me and goes to sleep.

Best Characteristic: I really can’t think of one, other than without Boost Mobile people would have a harder time trying to find me.  Boost Mobile would have no games, no style, no personality and no ability to troubleshoot him/herself.

Boost Mobile’s Twitter: WHERE U AT *3943* URGENT MESSAGE USER CANNOT BE REACHED WTF OMG LOL

Apple

I may as well be surgically attached to my iPod touch and my MacBook.  Because I work inside the internet, my old and tired laptop is my livelihood.  When not hunched over like an ape editing, I am probably walking or biking somewhere and listening to my iPod.  Even when I’m on the toilet I do crossword puzzles on my iPod.  Lovely image right?

Appearance: I think Apple would probably be a sort of sexy, nerdy, smug…oh wait.  It’s this guy.

The guy on the right. The guy on the left and I aren't on speaking terms anymore. But I kind of miss him.

Most Annoying Habit: Well, Mac and I have made the poor choice to mix friendship and business.  So half of the time we have a GREAT time hanging out, listening to NPR and chatting with our other friends.  We also have been known to get rather intimate, though it has yet to go beyond watching porn together.  But, on the flipside, he can be really slow and irritable.  He also is great at distracting me from actually producing any actual work.

Best Characteristic: He’s a know-it-all, and acts like he better than me.  He’s incredibly smart, but he’s very secretive about where he gets his information.  All-in-all a mostly OK guy.

Apple’s Twitter: I command my followers to be really annoying about the iPad.

The Salvation Army

I try not to buy too many clothes; I prefer comfy and familiar clothes that I can pack up quickly to hoards of really stylish stuff.  Hence I always look “good” but I rarely look “great!”  Most of my clothing comes from human-friends or second-hand corporate-friends that deal in as The Salvation Army.

Appearance:  Dumpy, possibly insane Christian.  Overbearing in almost every way.  Her style is questionable, and perhaps unsafe.  Her hair is a mess.

Most Annoying Habit: It’s a tie between her unmistakably terrible odor (my mom says it’s the smell of humanity) and the fact that I know she witnesses for Christ and hates gay people when we’re not hanging out together.

Best Characteristic: She gives almost constant fashion advice.  %99.9 is so far off the mark that I usually just laugh at her.  Like that time she suggest I wear pleated 49 waist pants and a floral blouse.  But occasionally she gets something right, and comes up with a sweet t-shirt or a surprising pair of jeans.

The Salvation Army’s Twitter:  YELLOW TAG- 10% OFF, BLUE TAG- %50 OFF, ORANGE TAG- SOILED

LL BEAN

Though most of my everyday clothing is second hand, I have 3 essential items that all come from the great Maine icon LL Bean: My amazingly light, warm, green and frumpy winter coat, my amazingly light, warm, purpleish-gray and frumpy winter boots, and my used LL Bean bright blue backpack with the name “Arjun” inscribed on it from a previous owner.

Appearance: Definitely a true Mainer, but one of the better looking ones (if there is such a thing).  Fit but sturdy, reserved but practical, and probably staring down at me disapprovingly from a sailboat.

Most Annoying Habit: Sweatshop labor.

Best Characteristic: Definitely makes sure I’m warm and comfy.  Not as concerned with style, but it won’t let me leave the house without a snuggly outfit.  Actually, this kinda sounds like my mom…

LL Bean’s Twitter: This sleeping bag is also a hiking stick, shoe insert, fishing pole, hat and water bottle.

SallieMae

Oh the sordid, twisted web of a relationship I have with my primary loan agency, SallieMae.  Basically my college forced me to use this evil organization (instead of other more responsible loan companies) to pay for my obscenely expensive college education.  I’ll be paying off SallieMae for the rest of recorded time.

Appearance: A big, fat man in a pin stripe suit with a cigar in his mouth laughing evilly, mixed with a really unhelpful woman with a Florida accent wearing a headset who refuses to speak proper English or make compromises.

Worst Habit:  SallieMae is the worst friend ever.  She waits until I get paid for working, then she takes all of the money to her house and sits on it.  She’s one of those friends who has too much money, but still requires more and refuses to share any.  She’s constantly suggesting that I may have made a big mistake, despite my insistence that she shut the fuck up.  She’s also constantly screwing over a bunch of my friends.  She comes from a family of companies, many of whom are awful, some of whom are OK, but none who are as evil and sick as Sallie.

Best Characteristics: She paid for my life in college.  However, she constantly rubs this fact in my face, and when I compare her to some of her international brothers and sisters I just want to kick her in the genitals.

SalliMae’s Twitter: GIVE ME UR FIRST BORN CHILD 2MORROW OR ELSE.