We Need a Hero

Omicron sounds like a Marvel villain, doesn’t it?  Something like:

INT. HILLTOP HIDEAWAY – NIGHT

OMICRON, ageless, sits on a chair at a glass desk faced away from us, staring straight through a wall of windows at the luxurious skyline.   Then suddenly —

He swings around.  A tightly fitted black synthetic fabric covers his face and entire body, except for a pair of shiny white leather gloves on his hands petting a white cat sitting on his lap.

Twist mustache, purrrrfect

His hands slide up and down the cat almost seductively until he slowly rises, raising the cat high in the air in a moment of victory.

Then he brings it down to his shoulders, where it wraps itself around his neck and rests comfortably, like the powerful and immovable amulet of horror it will soon turn out to be.

Okay, maybe that was more 1960s Bond than Marvel but you get the idea. 

And, sorry to demonize the cat.

Of course, you can demonize anyone and anything these days and get away with it.  Ask Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO). 

This is a good start

In the last few years she’s gone to fundraisers around the country with some D-list shtick about hijab-wearing, Somalian born Rep. Ilhan Omhar (D- Minn) being a terrorist, joking she feels safe in an airport or elevator or wherever else she slithers as long as her fellow congresswoman is not there wearing a backpack.

There was a time when this kind of thing would have ended your career instead of making you a headliner.  But there’s an old expression a lobbyist ex-boyfriend once shared with me about this:  Bedfellows make strange politics.

Meaning if you lay down with pigs long enough, before long you’ll grow to love the mud, muck and manure.  In fact, it might even turn into your life’s blood.

Nope, never

Ask aspiring Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).  He sees Rep. B’s Islamaphobic remarks, as well as the hard right wing racist taunts from the likes of Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) and Madison Cawthorne (R-NC) as merely a messaging problem rather than the unearthing of a gaggle of mice and cockroaches bent on eating their way through the support beam barely holding up what little structural foundation remains of his party. (Note:  That would be the Republican party, or as he likes to sometimes refer to it, the party of Lincoln.  The latter would be the man who freed the Civil War slaves, the same one that several noted psychics claim to have literally seen turning over in his grave in the last few years)

Not that I’m partial or anything. 

Reality check

But once we get into people like Rep. Cawthorn, who says his trip to the Fuhrer’s vacation home (Note: That would be Hitler’s pied-a-terre) was a memorable sojourn that was on his bucket list, all bets are off.

I mean, there is no prose purple enough you can use to describe that.  Hence, the Omicron excerpt above.  With more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases and 1000 plus deaths in the U.S. daily, the latter stat almost solely among the unvaccinated despite a vast surplus of vaccine, the rest of us have now become the unwitting cast, crew and extras of a new, live and ongoing superhero film missing one basic and very crucial element – a superhero.

All bat signal, no bat

Which brings us to the Supreme Court.  That once hallowed last chance savior body has this week taken up an anti-woman’s right to choose case from Mississippi that will likely end the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that gives all women the blanket federal right to seek an abortion up to 24 weeks into their pregnancy.

But in her questioning, Justice Amy Coney Barrett (Note: Whose confirmation in the during the last days of the Trump presidency was celebrated in a massive COVID-19 virus super spreader event at the White House) reasoned that pregnancy and parenthood are not part of the same burden.  In fact, she posed the idea that as long as women could give their babies up to the state for adoption, the right to terminate a pregnancy could at least be almost cut in half, or curtailed even further.

Because why shouldn’t an underage girl raped by a family member who is too scared to come forward in her first trimester be forced to have her baby?  Can’t she, like, just leave it at the firehouse as girls used to do in the old days?

It literally takes your breath away

Granted, this is my incendiary language and not hers.  But it’s essentially accurate when you read through her questioning.  See, Justice Barrett, 49, has seven children, two of whom are adopted, and a fundamentalist’s view of religious doctrine.  So much so that she once held the title of handmaiden at a small and very conservative Christian group called People of Praise. 

Not a fount of choice to be had there. 

Nope. That’s it. Moving to Canada.

Now, far be it for me to take away anyone’s freedom to live their life in their own kind of personal hell, I mean, dogma.  They are free to think of me as a sinner and try to own me as the self-admitted lib that I am, just as I am free to think of them as the misguided, willfully ignorant idiots that I know them to be.

But I’m just at the point of proclaiming what they are all NOT free to do is to refuse a vaccine against a disease that threatens the survival of life as we know it.  If you can drink a Coke, eat fast food, get your kid a small pox and polio vaccine before they enter school, you can sure as f-k be required to get this f-kin shot. 

I mean, I’ve gotten THREE so far and listen to me here.  Don’t I sound normal???

And I’d get three more shots if I had to!

Not to mention, shouldn’t there be at least an intelligence test you have to take before you get to serve in Congress or the executive branch?  (Note: Can you imagine who wouldn’t make the cut?).  How about a few geniuses get together and concoct a 2020 plus racism test that disqualifies you from serving if you score below a certain number?  The same for the basic tents of democracy (Note: Freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly) with essay questions on each so you can’t just pass by memorizing a bunch of laws.

I’d volunteer to grade them because…who else could I trust?

Red pens are ready!

Now I’m just joking, but only barely.  More than ever, this feels like the part of the film where either a hero or extraordinary power swoops in and saves us or we decide to save ourselves by standing up to the likes of the Omicrons.

Whether they’re wearing robes or abusing their elected offices with stupidity.

I’m by no means suggesting storming the Capitol.   Rather, spending some more time standing up to them in strategic discourse and civil disobedience.

As well as crawling through broken glass to cast your vote and make yourself heard.

Bonnie Tyler – “Holding Out for a Hero”

The Stories

This weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that leveled the World Trade Center Twin Towers in NYC and destroyed part of the Pentagon building in Washington D.C.  Nineteen Al-Qaeda terrorists on a suicide mission hijacked four large jets – two from American Airlines and two from United Airlines – and essentially used them as giant bombs by flying three of the four of them into those buildings.

In the process they killed 2977 people, left well over 25,000 others with permanent injuries and cost the United States over $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage.  This is not to mention the many billions more – actually many trillions more – spent over the last two decades on various wars overseas.

Names and flowers remain

Also, let’s not forget that among the dead that day were 344 firefighters and 70 plus police officers that ran directly into the wreckage in order to do their jobs (Note: There were probably more than that). 

And all of the collateral destruction created by all of the above. 

One of those is the fate of the fourth jetliner, whose passengers presumably revolted against the hijackers and crashed their plane into a field in Pennsylvania rather than have themselves be crashed into either the White House or Capitol building, their jet’s presumed target.

United 93 Memorial Site in Shanksville, PA

These are the facts, though they do little to truly explain the magnitude of this one event and the reverberation it’s had over the last two decades.

That’s the way it is with seminal tragedies, whether they be international news or merely personal in nature.

When they’re both, well, it’s that much more difficult.

We each find our way to put events in perspective (Note: Or we never do), create some kind of order and hopefully move forward.  There is no right or wrong way to do this and, ultimately none of them ever feel adequate or quite enough.

Wall to wall American flags, or not. (Toby Keith concert, 2002)

Undoubtedly this is why a personal informal survey I took of how others feel about the events of the 20th anniversary 9/11 memoriam/hoopla is unsurprising.

Some say they are avoiding everything because it’s too upsetting, too commercialized and far too reductive. 

Others believe to turn one’s back and not watch, get involved or at least donate to some worthy cause is selfish, disloyal and/or just plain emotionally bankrupt.

And then there is the largest middle group that feels a little of each and thus indulge in some small or large part of all the hoopla and memories.  If you’re in that crowd, as I am, maybe you leave with some new perspective or call to action.  Or perhaps you emerge sadder, angrier or more confused than ever.

Until a few minutes, hours or days go by and your life resumes pretty much the way that it was because, well, it sort of has to.

Only memories now remain

Though if you believe we are all an accumulation of our experiences and change happens only when you reach a tipping point in certain areas you can’t accurately say that time doing anything is wasted.

At least that’s what I tell myself.  And it makes me feel better. 

Momentarily.

It is both correct and cliché to proclaim and/or embrace 9/11 bromides like – the world was forever changed or we will never be the same or America was united on 9/11 and we need to remember that in these divided timesdespite the urge to either dismiss any or all of the above as merely clichés and hollow expressions or laud them as aptly inspiring lessons of both the political and social kind.

Which kind of brings us back to where we were the day after 9/11 happened and the week before the 20th anniversary happened.  Leading us to ask the question:

Have we really learned anything at all and, if we haven’t, what is the point of even thinking about this?

We have to learn from this

This week I watched Spike Lee’s excellent documentary series on HBO, NYC Epicenters 9/11 – 2021 ½, which covers the historical significance of tragedies like 9/11 and the COVID 19 pandemic;the wordy but telling Netflix drama, Worth, starring Michael Keaton, about government payouts to 9/11 families;and the rousingly watchable film of the Broadway musical, Come From Away, inspired by the true life story of the 38 planes diverted out of airspace for five days on 9/11 to a tiny Canadian town on the tip of Newfoundland, Gander.

Each work to various effects on their own terms and prove compelling and even funny in surprising and unexpected ways.  But none of them make even a slight dent in telling the enormity of the 9/11 story because, well, how could they?

No one thing will ever tell that story and no single story or group of stories can ever live up to the task. 

Must sees

This is because when it comes to seminal events in personal and/or human histories the stories are infinite and never-ending.  It’s why the Shoah project came to be in 1994 to account for the Holocaust after thousands of stories about the extermination of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis had already been told.  And it’s the reason why new ones are to this day being unearthed and will continue to be accounted for long after Shoah.

You never know what is new for whom and how it is going to resonate for which audience to come.

That point came into focus when during the seemingly endless coverage on Saturday two newscasters Zoom interviewed Joe Dittmar, a 9/11 survivor.  Mr. Dittmar, who worked in insurance, happened to be in NYC on business that day on the 105th floor of the South Tower when the first plane hit the North Tower.

His visitor badge

Like many others, he decided to immediately evacuate via the stairs.  But by the time he got down to the 78th floor he decided he would continue down the stairs rather than take the plaza level elevators that were now an option because he thought, as an insurance guy, the stairs seemed the better choice.

That and, despite the efficiency of the elevators, per various people around him who worked in the Tower and knew the building.

So Dittmar continued down the seemingly endless stairway and, when he got between floors 74 and 73 , the second plane crashed though floors 77 and 83 of the South Tower, the building HE was in.  Or more to the point, trying to vacate.

The crash instantly eviscerated the people and everything else between floors 77 and 83; ensured those situated above it were sitting duck prisoners of fate; and allowed many of those just below it, including Dittmar, to make their way to safety.

When asked if he wondered what would have happened if he didn’t make the split second decision he did and instead chose the elevator, he replied he didn’t have to wonder at all.  If he chose differently —

I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you now.

His survival is a miracle

What he primarily learned from that experience,  he said, was to always live that day and to never expect anything. 

There were no what ifs, no oh my god, life hangs in the balance and EVERY decision IS IMPORTANT, HELP, and nothing to the effect of, I happened to get lucky but I’m not smarter than anyone else.

This guy wasn’t a philosophizer.  He had, in very plain and simple terms, lived to become a realist.

On this “very special”9/11 anniversary there were a lot of unique photo ops, political speeches, expert talking heads tackling the events of the last 20 years from various angles and, most of all, a fine solo performance from Bruce Springsteen of a song he wrote last year about loss, I’ll See You In My Dreams, at the site of the attacks.

They all worked fine.

But the average Joe put it into perspective for me in a way no one else could.  And in a lot less time.

Come from Away – “Welcome to the Rock”