Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ned's "List"

I don't blog explicitly on the subject of September 11th, and haven't done any anniversary posts. I'm aware that there are plenty of people who have more to say and can say it more eloquently than I.

One of those people is Texas born, Louisiana-New Mexico-Texas-raised New York-based (25 years and counting) musician/writer Ned Sublette, who started what eventually became "nedslist," as means to let friends around the world that he and his family were "okay." People started forwarding his posts to friends and the next thing you know strangers were writing him asking to be put on his "list" (I met him at a concert and asked to be added). It's not a blog, it's- well, it's nedslist. And on this September 11, Sublette wrote a meditative and quite moving, and at some points polemic, post about it being the sixth anniversary of the inception of this list. So I don't forget it, I wanted to repost it here.

From Ned Sublette's Nedslist
"September 11 again"

every year i recall that this list began on september 11, 2001, as a way of letting our far-flung friends know we were okay. as i sent out dispatches, i started getting e-mail from people i didn't know asking to be on "the list." it grew. it's still not very big. it didn't get named until this year.

so today is this list's somber sixth birthday.

it's not a blog. i don't want to find all these posts on google. it's more like a lifeline, a way of staying in touch. this is just me, talking to friends, some of whom i don't know, and passing on information that might be interesting or useful.

i've been reading greil marcus's "the shape of things to come," in which, after quoting steve erickson: "a dream is a memory of the future," he describes writer david thomson's visit to a class marcus was teaching:

"'I know exactly when film noir began,' Thomson said weirdly. And he went on to recount, for a class of students born in the early 1980s, the impact of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963.

"He told the story as if it were a relic from another world. He described the shock and disbelief, grief and displacement, that the event produced in England, where Thomson, who is British, then was: 'This man,' he said, as if he did not quite understand what he was about to say, 'this man was loved, you understand -- *loved*, by people who were not even his own.'

"'But that,' he said, 'was not where film noir began.' We were all of us in the seminar room beginning to wonder what in the world Thomson was getting at, but we were also nervious. 'Film noir,' he said, 'began in the basement of a Dallas police station, two days later,' when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald -- when, to make history into genre, a nightclub owner shot and
killed the man arrested for the crime.

"But *wait*, everyone thought -- and the question would have been asked out loud if Thomson had not been moving so fast -- film noir goes back to theearly 1940s; how could it begin in 1963?

"'--and it was *then*,' Thomson said of that moment in the police station, 'that all the paranoia and fear that film noir had been prophesying for twenty years, the sense that our lives are not our own, that forces we cannot see or name are ruling our lives and our destinies -- it was then that everything that film noir had prophesied in America exploded into real life.'

"The assassination of President Kennedy, and then the removal of that event from the realm of what could be known to the realm of mystery, to a realm where one felt what could not be known as a rebuke and an oppression, to a realm where to be a citizen was suddenly to be a party to a conspiracy you could not even be certain existed at all -- all of this was the future film noir had, film by film, betrayal by betrayal, death by death, remembered."

september 11 was a memory of the future.

we could go back to the cinematic milestone that was for years celebrated as the ne plus ultra of filmic innovation, d.w. griffith's "the birth of a nation." you remember, the movie that celebrated lynching and black disenfranchisement as cornerstones of our great nation and inspired the rebirth of a bigger and better version of the previously moribund ku klux klan. in a 1915 interview for the new york times sunday magazine, griffith said:

"The time will come, and in less than ten years, when the children in the public schools will be taught practically everything by moving pictures. Certainly they will never be obliged to read history again.

"Imagine a public library of the near future, for instance. There will be long rows of boxes or pillars, properly classified and indexed, of course. At each box a push button and before each box a seat. Suppose you wish to ‘read up’ on a certain episode in Napoleon’s life. Instead of consulting all the authorities, wading laboriously through a host of books, and ending bewildered, without a clear idea of exactly what happened and confused at every point by conflicting opinions about what did happen, you will merely seat yourself at a properly adjusted window, in a scientifically prepared room, press the button, and actually see what happened.

"There will be no opinions expressed. You will merely be present at the making of history. All the work of writing, revising, collating, and reproducing will have been carefully attended to by a corps of recognized experts, and you will have received a vivid and complete expression."

though his time frame was too ambitious, griffith was nothing if not visionary: you will merely be present at the making of history.

september 11 is now a day like the fourth of july. it commemorates, to borrow a phrase from d.w. griffith, the birth of a nation. the consolidation of the united states as a fascist nation.

for years i tried to avoid using the F word, because it has been so debased by its use in pop psychology. i studied whether it might be historically applicable -- not quite, i think, because mussolini's fascism was about the state taking control of the corporations and this is about the corporations becoming the state. but maybe that's mere hair-splitting: the corporate state is the corporate state.

this is what american fascism looks like. we are now in the world of "repeat until true." there is no lie so outrageous, so ass-backward from the truth, that it won't be straight-facedly told by the leaders and picked up by the chorus. no one in the bush government can possibly tell the truth, because they've told so many lies they no longer can know what the truth is. we routinely live in a world of lies, in a civil war the right declared against the rest of us long ago. we have now reached the stage where large media outlets have no shame in conflating with osama bin laden. (and what's up with that squirrely bin laden video, anyway? did he *really* praise noam chomsky with his beard dyed brown? the voice is authentic, we are told. this is all cheesy enough to be some CIA spyboy's work.)

the moment the congressional elections ended in november 2006, the media narrative shifted immediately, with no interval at all, to the presidential horse race. that has been our overriding subject since then: who's going to be voted off democrat island? look at this bright shiny object. it's a rigged contest. prayer-warrior hillary's the nominee. it's a done deal, but we have some theater to get through first. we will then have a conservative candidate running against a fascist candidate and we will have spent the last two years talking about it instead of demanding real change.

which brings me to rudolph giuliani, waving the bloody shirt of 9/11 as he runs on a platform of national strength through collective submission to his authority. mitt romney might be crazier, huckabee and brownback crazier than that, and fred thompson might be more right-wing, but no single presidential candidate is as despicable as giuliani. and september 11 is his big day. one more reason to loathe it.

one of my strongest memories of september 11, 2001 is what a perfectly beautiful day it was. new york city has between ten and twenty sublimely beautiful days a year, and they tend to fall in the late days of summer. the sky was utterly blue, utterly clear. the light in this season falls at a marvelous angle to the city. the temperature was delicious. ever since then, when we have one of those beautiful end-of-summer-harbinger-of-fall days, somewhere down there i think, "september 11 was a day like this."

two years ago, we got a second national anti-holiday, august 29th. and now even the characteristic beautiful weather of that period -- august 29th through september 11 -- has become tainted. the interval between those two days has become, whether you want it to be or not, a time to meditate over the legacy of these last years.

the new security state that was born the same day as this list does not need -- does not want -- new orleans.

my anger at what happened to new orleans far exceeded what i felt at 9/11. but it wasn't until last year, when i was interviewing john feal on air america -- a 9/11 pile worker ill from smoke exposure -- that i began to realize that part of my anger at what happened to new orleans was bottled-up 9/11 anger. i'd put it in a jar and screwed the lid on, in order to get on with my life after the months of black depression that all but paralyzed those of us who live here a mile north of ground zero. (i remember: one day constance opened the drawer where the pillowcases are and *that smell* came out of it.)

tonight, out walking, something we enjoy but not as much as we used to on the congested sidewalks of this neighborhood where we now feel increasingly like strangers, we passed roberta (not her real name), an old-timer who's lived here as long as i have, one of the few people that i can remember seeing here 25 years ago. we nod when we pass but never speak. tonight she called out to us, are you going to ground zero tomorrow?

there's a solemn ceremony at the hole in the ground. wnyc host brian lehrer, who lost my respect forever when he ridiculed brig. gen. janis karpinski when she tried to tell the truth on his program, will begin broadcasting at 8:40 a.m.

no, we won't be there.

"i'll be there," roberta said, "shouting and screaming."

i was thinking about the woman from code pink -- i've looked at ten stories about it and can't find out her name -- who screamed all the way as they dragged her out of petraeus's presentation today. i felt she was screaming on my behalf.

i looked down at roberta's bag and saw the sticker: "9/11 truth commission." i think that's what it said.

"we won't be there," i said, "but we're screaming with you."

"i'm frightened," roberta said. "i'm *frightened.* i don't know what to do. this is *it.*"

"we all feel like this," i said. "we're all having this conversation."

"are we?" she said.

"you're not alone."

"i'm not?"

it's 1:37 a.m. on september 11. six years ago i got home at 1:37 from hanging out with juan carlos alfonso and dan den at SOB's and as i turned my key in the lock, i saw the twin towers for the last time.

i wonder what will wake me up in the morning. six years ago it was the second plane. i heard it in my dream, the dream that was a memory of the future.

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At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Upon reading your obit on Amiri Barak - I wonder if you included his visionary daughter Dominique DiPrima in your account of 7 children. As a teenager she hosted what I believe to be the first hip hop formatted t.v. show in the country, "Home Turf", featuring top rappers, skateboarding, graffiti art, local dancers and D.J.'s. Brilliant young woman.

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