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The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing, and ePluribus Media)

I lead a busy life.  I work a more-than-full-time professional job.  I run a household, all of its upkeep, and all of its finances.  I volunteer for the Red Cross.  I'm politically active.  I sing in and run the finaces of an entire funk band.  You get the picture.  Free time, for me, is at a premium.

This past weekend I did two things that I think were important.  I wrote this diary on Saturday.  The Daily Kos community extended its grace and compassion to what I had to say, and for that I thank each and every one of you.  On Sunday, with a rare hour's worth of down time, I watched Fahrenheit 9/11.  Like most (if not all) here, I had seen it before.  But it was time to watch it again.

Make the jump.

An important note before I begin: I loved Fahrenheit 9/11.  I think it's one of the most important movies ever made.  Some of what I have to say about it, though, is critical - don't let any criticism cause you to believe that I don't think it's an excellent and powerful documentary.

I'll begin this diary by saying that I believe I see Fahrenheit 9/11 for what it is: one man's positioning of his point of view.  I recognize that, strictly speaking, the items Michael Moore puts forward in the construction of his documentary are factual.  I recognize also, however, that he is singularly brilliant in assembling and constructing it in a way that is shocking.  In other words, he uses music and the art of editing to ensure that his opinions, which are clearly evident, are accentuated.

An example: the use of the Go-go's song Vacation to illustrate all the things that Bush did in the month leading up to the 9/11 attacks was sheer brilliance.  It added a level of ridiculousness to the already ridiculous idea that Bush would spend so much time away from Washington.

Another example that I had a bit of a problem with was his use of some of the footage with the US soldiers in Iraq.  Let me explain.  As Moore is setting up the stupidity of invading Iraq in answer to the attacks of 9/11, he shows interviews of soldiers in Iraq and paints them in a rather cavalier way.  In other words, he begins by taking statements which imply a "bloodlust" on the part of the US soldiers in Iraq and he selects The Roof Is On Fire to play as a backdrop while showing the soldiers as somewhat gleefully rolling off in their tanks.  I know, as do most of you, that the vast majority of the soldiers in Iraq are there simply trying to survive.  Many have given poignant interviews about the terrible choices and decisions they have to make and the abject stress they are placed under 24/7.  So strictly speaking, the "bloodlust" portion of the documentary, I thought, painted the soldiers in a very narrow light and one that was not necessarily complete or accurate.

Before those who felt that that segment of the film was a brilliant work of truth-telling, understand that I'm only laying out a few of my impressions.  Your mileage may vary, and my point is not to promote a debate of the rightness or wrongness of this segment or that segment of the film itself.  Rather, I'd like to provide some context for you so that you understand - I think Fahrenheit 9/11 is one of the most important films to come out in my lifetime and I believe this in spite of the some of the warts that I find on the film itself.

As I re-watched this film, having not seen it for what I think has been at least two years, I was pulled back to what, for me, was the most important part of the movie.  About 20 minutes into the film, the screen fades to black.  You hear people talking and there is an urgency to what they're saying - but you can't make out the words.  The tone is distressed - you hear an impact and shouting and more voices, all with a black screen.  As the picture comes back up, there's a woman's face - she's African American, but that's beside the point - her eyes are turned skyward and she's crying.

More faces come to the screen.  A man's face turned skyward.  A woman with her hand to her mouth with an expression of disbelief.  Two men talking while one makes hand gestures that explain what was going on in New York City.  More shock - more crying - from police officers and fire fighters and stock traders and office workers and tourists - black, white, asian.  As I watch, I am struck especially by three things:  a pretty blonde woman sits in her business suit on the sidewalk and puts her elbows on her knees, lowers her face to her hands, and weeps.  An elderly gentleman in a red cap looks momentarily stunned, and then his face contorts and melts in a way that only happens when someone is about to give in to their sorrow and allow the tears to flow.  And the third thing is the scene near the WTC towers (or where they used to be) that shows a street littered with emergency vehicles, running people, and debris - and all around these people and items is ash.  Falling ash.  It drifts like snow - it's so gentle.  If you didn't know what you were looking at you might even think, for a moment, that its slow descent from the heavens to the earth was beautiful.

This ash makes me cry.  Because in it are the souls and spirits of those whose lives have ended.  It is, in many cases, the only earthly vestiage of what used to be a person - someone's child, someone's sibling, maybe someone's spouse or parent - gone in an instant.  Reduced to gentle and nearly beautiful ash, floating to the earth on a pristine day filled with sunshine.

I was very close to the Key Bridge, which connects Arlington, VA to the Georgetown section of Washington, DC when I answered a phone call from a colleague and friend.  I was in my car on my way downtown to a meeting at the Treasury Department's headquarters.  She told me to turn around and head out of DC immediately.  She quickly explained that both of the Trade Center towers had been hit by airplaines.  She said also that reports had just come in that the Pentagon had been hit by an airplane.  I couldn't connect the information - it was all coming too fast.  She told me that DC was being evacuated.  I took the exit off of George Washington Parkway for the Key Bridge.  As I made the slow merge onto the brige itself, I looked to my right.  Smoke and flames were cascading upward from the Pentagon.  It was all very real and it was all happening.

Needless to say, getting away from Washington that day was problematic.  Our phones were all jammed - I knew without a doubt that both my husband and parents would be trying to call me to see if I was ok.  I turned on the news and I listened and I repeatedly dialed home to let my husband know I was ok.  I got through, eventually, to both he and my parents.  I also called my stepson's school, which was only a mile from the CIA building (rumors were running at that time that another plane was headed towards Washington) and determined that he was being allowed to leave with friends and was heading home.

Having communicated my safety and having determined that friends and family were also safe, I was left on Canal Road in gridlocked traffic and news radio.  I heard the towers fall and was thankful that I didn't see it as it happened.

This was a long ride.  Only halfway to where I needed to be to exit Canal Road towards home and having to use the bathroom in the worst way, I pulled into the parking area for the scenic Fletcher's boathouse along the C&O Canal to use the restrooms provided there.  People were biking and walking and talking and smiling and doing what they would normally do on such a beautiful early fall day.  I realized that they were all oblivious to what had happened as they walked the paths and enjoyed the beautiful day.  I even watched as one got a phone call on her cell phone and I watched as her face changed as she was given the news.  She told her walking companion, whose disbelief was evident.  Others overheard.  Pretty soon a small contingent of walkers and bikers and hikers were gathered around on the bridge over the canal, all asking for information.  I joined the conversation and filled in what I knew.

We all have a story about that day.  It stands out in most of our minds in stark relief, regardless of where we were or where we live.  That was the day everything changed and we knew it was changed forever.

The good part about that day, though, and some of the days that followed, was the feeling of solidarity and unity that flowed from every conceivable place.  We were united through tragedy - all of us.  You could feel it.  It was a sense of connectedness and connection with total strangers that was totally unique.

A true leader is not measured by the way s/he responds to the 80% of things that are commonplace - S/he is measured by how s/he reacts and responds to that which is totally unexpected.  Our President had an opportunity to truly lead - not just in the days that followed 9/11, but in the months and years that followed it.  He has failed in that endeavor completely.  The Republican-led Congress has failed right alongside him.

It took re-watching Fahrenheit 9/11 for me to again fully connect to how badly they have failed all of us.  It's been almost 5 years since that bright September day.  I would like to think that I am above becoming anaesthetized, above forgetting the egregious conduct of our leadership, above falling into the trap of the distractions they have set for us.  And I do believe that I remember more of what's important than the average American because I read and write and blog here, at Daily Kos.  It helps me maintain my outrage and stay in tune with all the missteps and mistakes.

But I'd be lying if I told you that some of the distractions haven't worked.  They have.  It took watching Michael Moore's documentary for me to really reconnect - to what happened to us, to how that made me feel, to what we should have done, to what we did do, and the myriad of reasons why certain choices were made.

And I'm mad.  The whole thing pissed me off all over again.  It has caused me to root my feet even more firmly in the ground and get these fuckers (pardon my language) out of power.  It has made me want to think even more creatively about how to cripple them further in the achievement of their agenda.  It has reminded me not to be so naive - if my gut reaction to the whole issue of Iran is "we can't seriously be thinking about invading Iran", watching the movie has reminded me that we ARE seriously thinking about and, more importantly, that if we let our guard down, it is inevitable.

I am outraged anew, and that's a good thing because I now have the fuel I need to work harder and try harder to make changes that are absolutely critical.

So give yourself a gift this Independence Day.  If you don't own it, go rent Fahrenheit 9/11.  Watch it.  Let it be the fuel you need to be an instrument of change.



posted by RenaRF at 10:31 AM 1 comments links to this post

1 Comments:

Blogger sad said...

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10:33 PM  

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