— Submitted by Rose Roby
Chair, St. Pete Local of the Green Party of Florida
When I was seven years old, I nearly drowned in the frigid crystal clear waters of a serene Vermont lake. Over 37 years have passed, but I can still remember my terror as I gasped desperately for air, as water filled my lungs, and the world began to fade to black. A minute or two can feel like an eternity when you’re fighting for your life. Though others had tried to help, my limbs wildly responded to the panic of drowning by beating off my potential saviors with ferocious kicks and punches, until I was finally pulled to safety by the only man strong enough to subdue me.
A Beautiful September Morning
(But Have You Looked Outside Your Window Lately?)
Compared to that event, death was very distant on September 11, 2001 as I watched out the window of my Jersey City condo while the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. I should have been in the thick of the carnage when the planes began to strike. I worked every day about a half a mile from the Towers, and my PATH train took me directly to the WTC. From there, I walked through the buildings every week day. Fortunately, prompt arrival to my workplace was never a priority for me and this lack of virtue was a lucky thing indeed.
But somehow, the very thought that the “stars” could have lined up against me, that I could have been among the victims of September 11th … it strikes a dread in my heart that’s hard to explain. Why is this? Death is death. Why would my death at age 30 —my remains smoldering among the ruins— have been so much worse than having died as a child in the cold waters of a Vermont lake? Especially when that near drowning brought me so close to the edge that I could practically feel my tiny fingers latching on to the Grim Reaper’s cloak. While 9/11, at least for my own mortality, was nothing more than a hodgepodge of “what-ifs” that never came to pass.
It would have been worse because if I had died on 9/11, I would have been USED! I would have been turned into a SYMBOL! It would have given my life a pseudo-meaning. How brave and noble I would have been! (As though showing up for work is inherently courageous and patriotic.) People from all over the nation and even the world would have grieved for me. They would swear to never allow my death to have been in vain! A mournful world would have GRIEVED for me … wait … what?
Gruesome Death Is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Grieved? What does that even mean to the hordes of strangers who never felt my presence in their lives, who couldn’t possibly feel any sense of loss from my death? Post-9/11: A nation united in mourning. But who were we mourning? The victims were mostly people just trying to get through another day at work. People who likely died screaming or crying or saying entirely un-heroic things like “Oh Shit!” and “Why is that plane so close?” The cold, hard truth would never be good enough. They had to be molded into True Patriots who Died for Our Nation so that their mangled corpses could be paraded around for the benefit of some very nasty people, people with some very bad intentions, who would use those corpses for their own wicked purposes.
Our grief was exploited, used to usher in a New World Order that demanded we hand over our civil and constitutional rights in exchange for false promises of security. It became the pretext for the Global War On Terror; this endless war where any nation (even our own) could suddenly find itself under attack on the pretext that it had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. That enemy is only known by two words, intended to strike fear and loathing in our poor grieving hearts whenever they’re uttered: “Islamic Extremists”!
Islamic Extremists: Agents of Terror. The shadowy enemies that must be stopped wherever they lurk. The boogieman that haunts our nightmares. Those bastards made us grieve and for that we have made them pay and pay and pay and never stop paying. They pay with their lives. They pay with their dignity. They pay with their sovereignty and right to self-determination. They pay in Gitmo just as they paid at Abu Ghraib. They pay when our drones turn their weddings into funerals. Hundreds of thousands of brown skinned people — faceless, nameless men, women and children are sacrificed at the altar of our insatiable, self-serving, narcissistic grief. But every now and then we’re delivered a grim reminder that they grieve too.
Things Fall Apart
Why do I focus on grief? Because recently, as the uneasy peace between leftists and liberals unravels, I’ve been bombarded by the notion that I’m not grieving enough for the “right” kind of people. I didn’t put on a display of heartbreak and grieving for the two NYPD officers that were murdered by an enraged Black man who wanted someone to pay for his grief over the unpunished murders of Eric Garner and Mike Brown. And this week I refused to change my Facebook status to “Je Suis Charlie” in honor of cartoonists who clearly reveled in passing off their racist, xenophobic and quite frankly at times heartless “art” as heroic tributes to Free Speech.
Even more creepy is the way the character attacks I’ve been subjected to have been filtered through the lens of liberalism and couched in leftist platitudes. The NYPD is painted as working-class heroes under violent attack by the wild-eyed lumpen underclass! The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo are lionized not only as iconic martyrs for Free Speech, but as great leftist thinkers as well! Failure to comprehend their so-called cutting-edge satire reveals one as an unsophisticated simpleton unappreciative of the finer points of French culture. (As an aside, I studied the culinary arts under French Chefs and still have the screaming nightmares to attest to that experience. This isn’t to say the French are all vicious people, only that there’s a darker side to French culture than our starry-eyed notions of dry wit, fine wines and romantic frolics through the lavender fields.)
I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone but the most simple-minded cretins that failure to wallow in an hysterical orgy of grief isn’t the same as condoning murder. I refuse to be bullied by chest-thumping opportunists who want to use grief as a weapon. I won’t be made to grieve for two NYPD officers who wore the uniform and carried the badge of state-sponsored terror against poor people of color whose neighborhoods have been held under siege. I won’t be made to grieve for smug, elitist racists who used their talent to strike at the world’s most vulnerable people instead of aiming at targets of power — who might strike back in far more insidious ways than a few masked gunman ever could.
The Road to Hell Is Paved With…?
What I dodged on 9/11 due to my tardiness was a fate far, far worse than death — that’s the day I escaped being condemned to Hell; never to be allowed to rest in peace as long as collective grief provides an excuse for hate, cowardice and mass-murder. No longer able to speak for themselves, these victims have been reduced to ventriloquist dummies mouthing the words of a bloodthirsty Empire with an insatiable appetite for the resources of the world. Our grief has been harnessed as a Weapon Of Mass Destruction.
As for Eric Garner and Mike Brown and John Crawford, and all the nameless, faceless murdered victims of Police Brutality and U.S. Imperialism from Staten Island to Gaza, I’ll admit that my heart hurts for them. Still I know that my heartbreak and $5 won’t even buy them a cup of coffee at Starbucks, since they’d be too dead to enjoy it. No, I think we owe them something far more significant than our grief.
For them I say, Don’t Mourn, Organize.