I hate the jingoism wrought by 9/11 and the ugly manipulation of the tragedy that inextricably intertwined it with the shame of Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo along with the thousands of innocent civilians and servicemembers killed in two formally declared wars of retribution against Afghanistan and Iraq.
But there was a moment of awe and a strange feeling of satisfaction almost for revenge denied, mixed with a genuine fuck-you to Osama bin Laden — and the hateful murderers that did his bidding — as I flew into JFK and for the first time in ten years, seeing a skyscraper towering in the distance where two once stood.
It stands defiantly as if to say New Fucking York. Now visible from all five of New York’s boroughs, One World Trade Center eclipsed the Empire State Building as the tallest building in New York today.
But there is something still missing – something that can never be replaced. If New York had two teeth knocked out that fateful day, it’s as if one has grown back, but tentatively and awkwardly.
It doesn’t stand out like a triumph of America’s greatness like the imposing towers once did, locked as they were in a solid dialog that exuded strength and resolve.
And whereas once the World Trade Center towers rose powerfully, seamlessly able to transcend America’s increasingly ugly and confused geopolitical role, its replacement seems uninspired and flat, steeped as it is now in politics and paranoia. A barricade shrouded in impenetrable glass. A tragic monument to the lives and liberties that once were, never to return.
I’m glad New York rebuilt something to occupy so achingly deep and empty a wound. Glad that in spite of itself — and the draconian legislation and mindset that was justified in the name of the destruction and reconstruction — a message that says you can knock us down but you can’t take us out, has indeed arisen from the ashes.
But like the people who died that fateful September morning, there are just some things that can never be replaced.
Clinton Fein is an internationally acclaimed author, artist, and First Amendment activist, best-known for his 1997 First Amendment Supreme Court victory against United States Attorney General Janet Reno. Fein has also gained international recognition for his Annoy.com site, and for his work as a political artist. Fein is on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Project, “a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition.” Fein’s political and privacy activism have been widely covered around the world. His work also led him to be nominated for a 2001 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award.
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