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Buttonwillow or Bust

Updated Sat 09.17.11 – One week ago late on Saturday the 10th of September, I wrote the following personal essay piece about the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Within hours of publishing it, I turned it back to draft as I wasn’t ready for it to go live, especially not on the day that was meant to remember the dead and thank the living rescuers and heroes.
What I was trying to communicate with this piece is my anger and frustration at the media, Bush administration, loss of freedoms (for what? more fear?) and culture clash politics that have erupted in the ten years since. My own reaction on Sun 09.11.11 was to participate in a wee bit of dada-esque absurdism with my sister and not to listen to / watch / consume any of the media’s disaster porn.
As I stated in the essay, I am not angry or frustrated at those who died nor their loved ones, but at our cultural and governmental responses.
Am now republishing.
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I have always liked the expression, “When the going gets crazy, the crazy get going.” Who is to say what is and who are crazy, maybe one can substitute the 2nd crazy with ‘zany’.
Honestly, I am ambivalent about today being the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and even more ambivalent about the fetishization of 9/11. I realize that for many in the US and other places that Sept 11, 2001 was a dividing line moment in their lives, much as Kennedy’s assassination was for many in mid-to-late 20th Century. A defining set of moments for the modern era. A line in time with a definitive before and after.
A few bloggers I truly respect have written about what 9/11 meant to them and why.
I read Dave Winer’s thoughts from the other day and a few of his points resonated with me and sparked more thoughts on why I have been angry at the media circus around 9/11:

“2. Our worst fears of dirty bombs, and constant attacks, have yet to materialize. Knock wood.
3. It was the excuse used to start a very optional and horrible war in Iraq, one which destroyed their country, and more than we realize, destroyed ours.
4. I will never forget how our President betrayed our trust, much worse than what Nixon did.”
Dave Winer

I am still angry ten years later that the Bush II administration used 9/11 to further their own very cynical and downright deceptive goals. After 8+ years of stupid, lying, ruinous war in Iraq that has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and made the world a much more dangerous place for Americans than it was before 9/11/01, I am over it.
By over it, I don’t mean to be callous to the folks who lost their lives or lost loved ones or had their whole lives derailed by the attacks on 9/11, I am over the absolutely cynical use of American power to further the goals of a few in office and their friends while bankrupting the rest of us. Don’t get pissed at Mr. Obama for the current state of the economy and debt, please go talk to Mr. GW Bush, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfield, et al for their abuses of power from 2003-2008 all in the name of avenging 9/11.
For all the folks who died, who lost loved ones, or who are now disabled because of 9/11 and the aftermath, I am very sorry. You have my love and hugs.
But I remain ambivalent to down right flippant about 9/11 for several reasons beyond the Bush administration’s war for profit and glory in the name of revenge, reasons that it is hard for me to watch or hear the media’s 10th anniversary memorials without defaulting to my own detachment and anger.
I am a Californian. Before 9/11, I would tell people that I was an American from Los Angeles. Now I tell people that I am a Californian from the greater LA area. When people say, “No, you are an American.” I say, “Not really.” 9/11 has separated me from the vast bulk of the country that is on my passport. In the aftermath of fear mongering, Patriot Act approving, American sensibilities caving in on itself in supposed self-protection, the widening cultural divide, political polarization, and many other negative effects that have occurred in the US in the last ten years have made me wonder when the country will split up into new countries that really reflect the divergent regions.
I live in the greater Los Angeles area, on one side I am 5th generation Southern Californian and 4th to 3rd on all the other sides. I live both in terms of real distance and in terms of sympathy closer to Mexico City, Honolulu, Anchorage, and Havanna, than I do to New York City or Washington DC. I have visited both East Coast cities a couple of times, as a child and as an adult, and have found both places to be more foreign to me than Berlin, Tijuana, Chennai, Honolulu, Mumbai, Dublin, Helsinki or London.
Ok, maybe I am wrong about Helsinki… Helsinki is a pretty exotic, far away place place, but so is New York City to me. When I saw the news coverage the morning of 9/11, it seemed as far away to me as the London bombings of 7/7/07 or the Mumbai bombings of Nov 2009. In all three instances, I felt horrified at the evil in human nature, sad for the cities and people affected, but in all three cases, it was as if they all happened in a very far away place. It is hard to keep feeling and not detach in the deluge that is the 24/7 media onslaught.
In the weeks after 9/11, I joked to close friends that terrorists must not see the West Coast or California as a part of the US, as we had no love from them. My bad jokes evolved into what I called “Hanen’s Heresies” as I also felt like the terrorists missed an opportunity to blow up the East LA interchange as the county of Los Angeles could never get all the permissions necessary to modernize the 5/10/710/110/60 freeway interchange(s) and the folks at Al Qaeda could have helped out by bombing it at about 4am and forcing the MTA’s hand at re-doing all the on and off ramps.
Bad bad bad jokes aside, I had my own before and after. The weekend of August 24-26, 2001 and friend and I went camping just south of the Sequioa National park in an area of a redwood stand of trees that were all over 2000 years old. The trees were grand, big, tall and amazing, I caught a 13″ rainbow trout in a fishing accident, and my friend and I had an opportunity to talk about our hopes and dreams for the next era of our lives. I returned home to Orange and to work teaching web design and other computer arts & art history classes at a local university to have my life upended on August 28th, exactly 2 weeks before 9/11, when my own personal terrorist in the form of a student’s roommate who decided that he needed to get me fired as I was a very bad woman who was unfit to teach good Christian students.
The next two weeks were hell. I found my self in many meetings with university administrators trying to defend myself and suss out what the student was really complaining about, so that by the time my roommate woke me up on Tues, Sept 11, 2001, to tell me that terrorists had blown up the Twin Towers with airplanes in NYC, I was already completely up and over fundamentalist young men, either of the Isalmic or Christianist variety, who were trying to ruin the lives of others. Really over it.
I kept my job teaching that year, but came out of the experience rung out, my everybody loves everybody naivete shattered, and burnt out on people trying to control others in the name of a supposed faith. I actually reveled in the 3 days after 9/11 as they were so very peaceful around LA, folks stayed home, the skies were very quiet with no aircraft, and one could drive just about any where without much traffic. We were many thousands of miles away and we had a time of quiet.
9/11/01 was on a Tuesday. The following Friday night, my friend Judy and I decided to flip a proverbial finger at the terrorists and have a night of Kevin Smith-a-thon. I brought wine, she got all the movies that Kevin Smith had made up to that point and we watched “Clerks”, “Mallrats”, “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma” all in one go. By the time we got to Dogma, I was drunk and I cried and laughed all the tension out. The next day, Judy and I went to see “Jay and Bob Strike Back” at the theatre. Judy’s husband was appalled, but we thought that humor, absurdity, and irony was the best way to fight back.
Tomorrow, for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, my sister, Allison, and I will be fighting back with a trip completely zany and nonsensical road trip to Buttonwillow, California. We will have lunch at Tita’s for the cheese and pork pupusas and possibly visit the Tule Elk reserve and the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake memorial just before the Grapevine.
Yes, two and a half hours up the 5 freeway and the same back all for the love of a road trip to a spot on the map in the western southern Central Valley of California that one only usually stops at for gas or food between LA and San Francisco seems to be a darned fitting thing to do on Sunday, Sept 11, 2011.
Have I mentioned that one of my favorite 20th Century art movements was the Dada-ists who reacted to the trauma of WWI with absurdity and art-making?
Buttonwillow or Bust.