9/11 Knows America Lies to Itself

9/11 hates these years the most. Every half-decade, the annual commemoration is amped up, as if some magic exists in numbers that end in 5 or 0. Every time, the same speeches, the same images, the same patriotic fervor in some places, the same performative sense of loss in others, the same, the same. The only part she feels still has any power is the reading of names. It has an incantatory quality, like a Buddhist prayer, with the timed striking of a sonorous bell. She feels something then. 9/11 is accustomed to feeling nothing anymore. She has been used and brutalized and caressed and beaten and loved and raped and paraded on high and dragged through the streets. 

She was degraded regularly by George W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani and the monsters and ogres of that time, forced on her knees to choke as they forced their anxious pricks into her mouth, desperate to steal her power for themselves. She was told to get out and perform for the Obama administration, to dance a whore's dance, to masturbate for the masses in order to justify the unending war done in her name. And through it all, every ceremony, every time she's been dragged out to take her defiled part in, she has appreciated the reading of names. Because then it isn't about them. It isn't about Bush or Cheney or Osama or, ludicrously, Saddam. It isn't about every TV demagogue trying to force finger her or every candidate for office slapping her ass. No. It's not about them. It's not even really about her. It's about heart-wrenching loss and soul-breaking hurt, which is all it really should be. The rest is worthless. 

9/11 hates the lie that Americans desperately need to believe. She wants to scream at her TV or her iPad whenever a report comes on that talks about how the country "came together," how there was "unity," how we "cared about each other." 9/11 knows the purpose of this lie, to cover up the instant divisions in the nation, to bury the hatred that welled up in the streets and in the police precincts, to spackle over the holes in the American conscience that could justify everything that came after. They say, "Never forget" over and over, like a mantra of the deluded inside a rubber room, as if a country that is devoted to forgetting its real past, its evil and its racism and its violence and its cruelty, has to cling to this illusion of a moment in time, a fantasy of togetherness across party, across identities, across the world. 

9/11 doesn't remember it the way the overheated politicians and the frothing media figures remember it. She remembers how Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld got harder than they had in years at the chance to blow shit up. She remembers how completely a spell was cast over the American people, with anyone opposing blowing shit up being labeled a traitor. She remembers how many other lies were told, about who was responsible, about what bombing the shit out of them would do, about how people had too much freedom in their lives and that it needed to be limited. She watched, even from the pied-a-terre near smoldering Ground Zero where Karl Rove had stashed her in so she could be conveniently and roughly sodomized by him whenever it seemed the public was straying from walking the War on Terror line, and she saw how immigrants were mistreated and stigmatized by the Bush administration, even as so much lip service was paid to not blaming those immigrants. Or Americans. 9/11 has felt all the savagery done in her name, every drone strike in Yemen, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Sudan, all under the banner of fighting them there so they don't come here when, really, almost none of them want to come here. She has heard every civilian scream. She knows the faces of the tens of thousands upon tens of thousands who were killed, the payback for the almost three thousand killed on her birthdate, when she emerged, whole and adult, from the burning rubble that was made of poison.

It all disgusts her, but, she has to admit, seeing her reflection in the glass on the outside of the museum that bears her name, the nausea from her disgust has kept her in pretty good shape. It's more than she can say for some of the ghouls from back in that time. Sean Hannity looks like someone put two wax dummies of him together. Kellyanne Conway looks like she was washed in a filthy river and balled up in a corner. And Giuliani? 9/11 doesn't even know how he's still alive. But she figures the Devil he made a deal with is just enjoying watching Rudy crash and burn. And so does 9/11.

9/11 does appreciate the memorial in Lower Manhattan. She can stare at the water falling into the void for hours at a time, allowing herself to feel as if she is falling into it, too. She can turn and smile at the giant One World Trade Center building. Goddamn, she's relieved they stopped calling it "the Freedom Tower." What a crass, awful name. It's not as bad as "Patriot Day," as some like to call her. That just reeks of flop sweat, like explaining a joke that no one laughed at. Which, really, that name kind of is. 

Fewer and fewer people notice her now in the plaza. That's the one nice thing about the years going by. She's not something real to so many now. And those who do notice her are startled when they see her, but they don't approach her. They don't want to know the real her. They need the illusion. 

9/11 can't give that to them anymore. If nothing else, the end of the war in Afghanistan has made plain that she was never the gal they thought she was. And that's hard for most of them to deal with.

She does want to hear the names again. But that list should keep being read with everyone killed in the name of those names, victims as sure as those who died here in Manhattan or over at the Pentagon or in a field in Pennsylvania. 9/11 believes that's the only way to tell the truth: since that day 20 years ago, it has never not been 9/11.