Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th, Which Won't Go Away

So I was at work today, as I tend to be on weekdays, milling about when a coworker asked me "do you really love New York?"

Of course it took me a good second or two to figure out that a) said coworker was being cheeky and b) she asked me because I'm wearing a nice, touristy I heart NY tshirt. Naturally I guffawed at her, insisting that duh I love New York, I lived there for two goddamned years and I miss Brooklyn every day so help me god etc.

What didn't occur to me until a few hours later is that today is September 11, and, that I was unintentionally showing some sort of patriotic solidarity with my East Coast brethren. It had been a usual roll out of bed and into the shower morning; I just grabbed the quickest t-shirt I could find and ran out the door to try (and fail) to catch the bus.

So it's 9/11. And every year on 9/11 I spend all day suddenly remembering that I'm existing in my own little world on a day that matters so much and yet flies by in a blink. I always want to say "yeah, New Yorkers still feel that moment every day," or "I used to go by Ground Zero on the way home at night, it's so weird, a big, gaping hole," or "I knew a girl whose mom died."

The thing though is that none of that shit matters a whole lot. Not to you, or, really, to me. And I'm trying so hard to make 9/11 matter that I'm worried about the size of my patriotism as if I were an frat boy stuffing his shorts. Truth: America is fucked up, just like everywhere else. But I think it's a great country to live in, every day, where we have the freedom to tell our stories and watch racy shows on cable TV and show our big, meaty legs in short shorts.

I met a cool lady tonight, Randa Jarrar, who wrote my new favorite book, A Map of Home (review to come in my next book post). She's an Arab American, and I told her that I was gonna send her book to my grandmother, who has never met an Arab person before and is terrified of Muslims. I told her that my gran a smart lady who just doesn't have any experience to show her otherwise. The thing is, the story of Nidali, the girl in Randa's book, is the story of every little girl, the story of finding self-identity and the struggle of adolescence. It's a totally cultural book, set in the Middle East, but it's hysterical and heartbreaking and perfect.

If I had my way A Map of Home would be in every high school library, even though the Tipper Gores and the Sarah Palins of our country would be all over it for the sex and the dirty words and the violence. But, that's how life is, and if we could all see through Nidali's eyes, through Randa's words, I think the youth of America would stand a chance at fighting the bullshit cultural war we've gotten ourselves into.

And on that note, I hope I never write about September 11 again. I hope it's all out of my system. Then again, I'm nothing if not repetitive.

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