Monday, September 26, 2011

I disagree with somebody on the internet.

I saw a comment on Facebook today that I feel like overreacting to. To paraphrase, my friend wrote something to the effect of: "My life's goal used to be being in a touring band, now its having a swimming pool in my backyard." To which someone I don't know replied, "I believe that's called becoming an adult!", a most likely benign, slice-of-life type of response I'm sure, innocuous to probably everyone who saw it except for me.

Well I'm sorry, but that's bullshit. I fucking hate the prevailing attitude that giving up on one's dreams and/or talents are synonymous with adulthood. Its this derision that people who have never had any ambition beyond owning property and popping out kids place on people who's lives mirror their own in many ways, except with some some extra passion or talent or whatever, the pursuit of which obviously makes them fucking children. Guess what? Anyone can have kids, and that's great. I want kids too, but that doesn't automatically necessitate that you abandon your dreams, and that alone certainly doesn't qualify anyone for adulthood except in the most biologically strict sense of the word. Its like there's the majority of people out there, anxiously waiting for anyone with the slightest spark of creativity to give it all up and join them so they can validate their middle-class anonymity and notions that anything a person could do in this free society besides procreate and mow his own fucking lawn is a pointless waste of time.

Its so painfully obvious that our society has spared no expense to devalue art, music and even fitness. These things are the first to be cut out of any school curriculum despite evidence that they all increase brain functions and learning capability in students. Chinese children are learning complex Kung-Fu forms and playing piano sonatas in their schools, and we're firing gym and music teachers, and yet ironically telling people that music and so forth are juvenile pursuits.

I think people should be respected for not giving up on their goals as they start families. Doesn't it show more commitment and responsibility to be able to balance something that makes you happy with caring for others? Wouldn't that be a more adult example to set for your own kids than just saying "fuck it", getting fat watching football and getting your primary satisfaction from lawn care?

I think so. But then again, I'm just a kid who's goal is to be in a touring band. And maybe one day, my kids will be proud of me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Obligatory 9/11 Post

As everyone knows, its been 10 years since 9/11. Today, I avoided television and news websites like the plague, already being able to fully picture in my mind everything that was going to be shown and said. Of course the families and first responders deserve a day of honor and remembrance. As for the rest of us who were fortunate enough not to have lost anyone, every day for the past ten years has been a constant reminder of the event that defined the decade.

I, like everybody else, remember where I was. I was taking the PATCO home after Rutgers closed early, nearly choked with the irrational fear that after the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, Ferry Avenue Station in Camden might just be next. I tensely surveyed each passenger, my eyes scanning for some kind of suspicious briefcase doubtlessly filled with a homemade dirty bomb or a generous helping of sarin gas. I remember being scared for a friend I had at NYU. I must have emailed her to see if she was OK, considering I wouldn't get a cell phone until 2005. I remember a friend being interrogated about his citizenship by a threatening group of guys while delivering a pizza to an office. Of course, this story is nothing unique. Everyone who was not actually there has something similar to offer about that day.

Since then, we're always told to "never forget", as if anyone would ever let us. As if every law, every war, every bookshelf, and every news outlet hadn't long ago beaten to death the actual terror and sorrow of that day in order to pass policy, to fulfil agendas, to sell stories, and to keep us in line. 9/11 is the ultimate card to play. Its importance is absolute, and for 10 years, to disregard its place in an argument relating to anything in this country is nearly akin to taking to the streets with signs that say "Fuck The Troops". Obviously, the terrorists have not won. Our society goes on, largely unfettered by Muslim extremists. The few Jihadists who manage to grab headlines with some ill-plotted attack still pale in comparison with, say, the heart of Martin Luther King Blvd in Camden at 3am. Yet, while the local police forces are cut back, we are humiliated at every airport, forced to strip off clothing while some hidden security guard surveys an x-ray of our naked bodies looking for bombs. God forbid the next terrorist hides a cache of explosive liquid in his ass, because I can guarantee I'll be rowing a boat before I ever set foot in an airport again.

Absurdly named, the Patriot Act gives the government permission to do things that would have had the founding fathers declaring open war, yet with a little bit of spin and a dash of 9/11 thrown in, its the yoke we live under today. My friends and yours risk their lives again and again in Afghanistan, trying to make a functioning democracy out of a tribal expanse of worthless sand and mountains, all because that's where terrorists were when 9/11 happened. Meanwhile, greedy contractors with lucrative government deals descend in swarms, getting rich off of this blood money while the rest of us are told how poorly the economy is doing, that our kids are going to be stuffed 30 to a classroom, and not to expect that Social Security will be there for us when we retire.

No, the terrorists haven't won. But they have changed the world, and they have changed us. My America today is a much more paranoid and cynical place than I can remember living in when I was 17. Its also more blatantly brutal. Of course I know that every president has used the military for lethal operations, but look at where we are today thanks to 9/11: A 10 year war in Afghanistan. An 8 year war in Iraq. Daily drone strikes on Pakistan. Thousands of dead US soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of dead, innocent civilians, a figure so often ignored because, after all, they're foreigners. A covert military so expansive and powerful that most people don't realize it exists, and a global war on terror that can be conveniently perpetuated indefinitely so long as one terrorist cell exists on the planet. If only these terrorists were sane enough (or in most cases, alive enough) to regret their actions. To see that they should have expected such an extreme, long-lived, and vindictive reaction. To see that we, the nation of heathen white devils that they attacked, were willing to sacrifice our freedoms, our morality, and every last dollar in the treasury to destroy not only them, but the country that housed them and the neighboring countries as well. The lands of their fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers. Truly, a loss for all parties.

Yet, I have no frame of reference to know if society is worse or the same as in the past. We have 9/11, our grandparents have World War II. I can recall my grandmother's palpable sense of disgust when she saw the Japanese imperial flag my roommate had hung on the wall of our house in college. My parent's generation lived in fear of being nuked by the Commies at any time, yet today people freely order their Che Guevarra shirts online and wear them wherever they damn well please. Maybe this generation is no different, and in twenty years, images of the Mujahideen will become hipster-chic and inspire no more fear or disgust among the relevant generation than good old Che does today.

In fact, the signs are already there. 10 years after 9/11, college freshmen party in the streets, applauding the assassination of Osama Bin-Laden. When the attacks happened, they were in elementary school, probably learning how to read. They didn't know where the middle-east was, what the term "terrorist" meant, or most likely, where the Twin Towers were located. They knew the same thing that I knew when I was 8 and we were fighting Saddam the first time: there's good guys and bad guys, and we're the good guys. If you're an 18 year old college freshmen, your friends who went to the military are probably still in boot camp. You probably know about as much about the people and events surrounding 9/11 as those who compare everything they don't like to Hitler with zero functional knowledge of Nazi Germany, especially if you're the type of person who actually takes to the streets to celebrate an assassination. However, I can hardly blame them. The past ten years were their formative ones. They don't remember a time when you could actually make a joke about a bomb at the airport and not be arrested, or a time when you could see a middle-eastern looking person with a huge beard and just think it was strange or funny without something inside you telling you that you should feel afraid.

So, in thinking about these last ten years, I still maintain that the terrorists haven't won.

But they have seriously screwed everybody.