Wednesday, October 3, 2001

The Man

The Man, his regime, and assorted powers that be exhort America to work, play, and generally carry on with the business of being American. And I'm all for that. The airwaves broadcast a similar message, as does the mainstream press. And this very newspaper's management urges, ever so diplomatically, much the same thing.

Such solidarity bowls me over.

But hopefully not to the extent that I might've missed some subtle subtext or tactfully embedded "find a new subject, already," because, well, there is no other subject for me. Not now, at least, not when the nightmare that was Sept. 11 has itself become much less the subject than the predicate from which many subjects arise. And will no doubt continue to arise. (It's a bit like being pregnant in that, despite a woman's best efforts to keep the gazillion or so musings she has about the wonders of gestation to herself - assuming, of course, that said woman wants to keep her friends - every thought she does share is, inevitably, shaped by what's taking shape inside her.) Still, if I missed my cue, all apologies. I'd rather argue, oh, say, the merits of a Stradivarius versus those of a low-end boxwood fiddle (especially since I know squat about violins) than marvel over the nothing-short-of-historic solidarity between Media and Government (especially since I know what led to such accord.) But I can't. I'm too bowled over.

The fact that this meeting of minds is on only one point, and a loosely defined point ("the business of being American") at that, doesn't escape me. Neither does the fact that solidarity between Media and Government, no matter how sensible the unifying factor or factors may be, is an almost unnatural state; Elysium's a nice place to visit, but few have the stomach to live there.

That would explain why this unlikely alliance is already showing signs of strain.

For example: though the atrocity that was Sept. 11, 2001 flatly defies rationalization, many of us are already playing the blame game. And, while I understand that grief knows many stages (see: Elizabeth Kubler-Ross), pointing the finger at the CIA or the FBI or the airline industry for a crime against humanity also makes me understand why the late Spiro Agnew, at the height of the Vietnam War - I can't say "conflict" with a straight face; what will the government, I wonder, end up naming this as-yet-begun war? A "donnybrook?"- condemned the media as a whole, calling its talking heads "nattering nabobs of negativism."

Heaven knows that outrage has provided me with some temporary solace over the years (and Hell knows that a full-and-frankly-embarrassing 50 percent of those times my outrage was born of anger, not anguish.)

But the media, for decades regarded as a faceless and mammoth monster too insidious to tame, much less intimidate, is really only as mighty or meek a bogeyman as we'll let it be. A good friend of mine lost her brother in the Sept. 11 nightmare. Yet she hasn't once shown any of the typical anger that is a natural part of the grieving process. She's devastated, of course, but claims that her loss is much easier to bear knowing that the nation grieves with her. She's found the purest kind of strength that numbers can provide, I guess.

I'm just glad I was here to witness the miracle, however fleeting it was.