mr. grant’s rant: blame the tears

There’s something I find deeply unsettling about the combination of flags, god and bombs. The ‘god is on our side’ argument has helped facilitate some of the most gruesome and inhumane periods of warfare in the history of the world as we know it…”

 

 

One of the problems with a good proper rant is that it requires energy, intuition, a focused point of view and a sense of humor – all internal qualities that went up in a ball of flames on September 11, 2001.  While a thousand thoughts traveled the badlands between my ears, I am missing the synaptic coherence needed to organize them into any sort of useful concept or idea. And maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe it is simply beyond our capacity to try to impose some structured sensibility to something as diabolical as what occurred on that black day.

But I do know this much:

In the following days I watched every semi-literate, two-legged creature with an opinion parade it in front of the lidless teevee eye. Hour after hour I consumed a toxic diet of death and destruction.  Pontificating military strategists, political polemicists, grainy film clips of dancing paupers in Palestine generously interspersed with stories of heroism and horrible personal connection to the crisis. All of which made clear to me that the media’s unmeasured response (to borrow a phrase popular with the pundits these days) to the events in NYC and Washington DC were contributing to a sort of collective social hysteria. And I am convinced that this live-motion full-color onslaught helped to generate an unfocused but red-hot hatred before finally spitting us out on the floor in a sort of shell-shocked state of despair, grief and exhaustion.

I cannot begin to fathom the poisonous damage that this calculated and relentless exposure to imagery of real violence does to a person’s soul. The extreme human loss was enough to register the magnitude of the horror to even the most cynical among us.

But there I sat like a agreeably bound masochist waiting to be punished, watching explosions, carnage, mayhem and disaster replayed for endless hours. A continuous loop of real humans leaping from atop giant buildings. Helmeted heroes running through palls of smoke. Those same giant buildings then collapsing with thousands still inside. More heroes. Fire, smoke, tears, grief, horror and more tears. So many tears. So many heroes. Over and over and over. And before those tears dried and that horror could even start to be processed, I watched as our “newscasts” became something altogether different — shifting an extraordinary amount of energy to more subjective themes like god, patriotism, honor, retribution, vengeance and Nationalism.

A horrible, horrible crime became a “war.” Operation Infinite Justice it was labeled, albeit briefly.

Nationalism coupled with vengeful god can be a frightening thing to behold, especially when bolstered by the fear of an enemy not fully understood or identified. A Sikh was murdered by a self-proclaimed “patriot ” in Mesa, Arizona, who apparently felt that the only good Arab was a dead one. Reports surfaced of Arab Americans too afraid to go to the store to buy groceries, their children too fearful to go to school. People everywhere wanted to bomb something, someone, anyone.

And the tears hadn’t even dried in New York City or Washington D.C.

There’s something I find deeply unsettling about the combination of flags, god and bombs. The “god is on our side” argument has helped facilitate some of the most gruesome and inhumane periods of warfare in the history of the world as we know it. The deranged cultists who flew the jets into the WTC thought god was on their side too.

It really is horrifying , the poison that’s mixed when the concept of a god is used to justify an act of hatred and violence.

The issue is a response of sorts. And it’s not necessarily an intentional response, but one that was unavoidable. It seems that like it or not, the aftermath has touched everything we do. Smokebox has a number of contributors who live, work and play in the Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan region of New York City. These individuals have helped to shape the voice of a magazine that just last month celebrated it’s first year of publication, so it seems logical that much of the material here was intrinsically shaped by the events of September 11, 2001.

As for Smokebox 14, you must read it, and read it carefully, for it holds within it’s digital covers certain elemental revelations. One can be found in Brendan Costello’s review of the Chocolate Genius’ Concert For A Fallen Sky, a particularly moving account of a concert in Manhattan’s East Village held on September 17th.

On the other hand, some of the stories were submitted long before the buildings collapsed, and those pieces seem astonishing in their cocky innocence (yes, even the gruesome Beware The Botfly, our “Halloween” story this month).  They’re pieces written before the National landscape changed.

The contrast is quite startling really, and I struggled with the idea of whether or not to include them in an issue with a more somber tone than anything we have put out in the past. In the end I decided that ultimately we are who we are. The pre-WTC features have a place here just as much as the post-disaster articles.

You’ll no doubt note that Smokebox is missing a bit of it’s customary cheek and renegade spirit this month, but I’m confident it will return in due time. If this issue seems a bit disjointed, and lumpy or misshapen, blame the tears. It was forged from the metals of two different worlds. C’est la vie.

 

Originally published:
Issue Fourteen
October 2001

 

 

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