It's 10:20am, which means they're probably reading off the "E"s or the "F"s at the former site of the World Trade Center right now. I know I am supposed to reflect today - it has been demanded of me - but I keep getting confused about what, specifically, to reflect on. Loss? Anger? Solidarity in the face of disaster? Heroism? Villairy? The war effort? My city? My loved ones? Other people's loved ones? The towers? The smoke? The safety of the clear, blue sky?
It's a mess, frankly. And for me it's only aggravated by an unwanted cynicism that keeps surfacing despite my best efforts to suppress it. I'm slightly confused and angry to see a nation rally together to promote its grief so globally, with such grandeur. If you're not living in New York City, you might be missing the many posters and billboards commemorating our mourning, our need to remember. All the graphic designers' dreams are being realized around the city - how fortunate for them that "September 11th" lends itself so eerily well to logo design, what with the two "ones" in 11 resembling identical towers and all. If you aren't watching television or listening to the radio, you might be missing the reading of the names of our dead (moving) while a bed of classical music lies beneath (maudlin).
It's incredible. Everywhere you turn, someone official (the ad council, sunoco) is saying "how are you?" and "do you need to talk to anyone today about your grief?" but that compassion is constantly undermined by a saturation of disturbing images accompanied by mock-profound simple statements and logos, all in the style of "strained restraint". We're being asked if we're having trouble with the ghosts of last year's Shitty Thing, while those ghosts are being constructed in effigy at every street corner, on every television broadcast. It's like showing someone a photograph of his own future-death and saying, "now I know you weren't meant to see that, but does this image make you sad? Be honest."
Other forces, through pro bono ads, are instructing us on other ways to behave - use this day to be a better citizen, honor someone, etc. But I wish they'd leave me alone, and let me figure out how to feel about this on my own. Let all of us figure this out on our own, or with people who actually mean something to us. And by "mean something to us" I don't mean Julia Roberts or Bruce Springsteen or Rudolph Giuliani. Old feelings are being constantly replaced by new and more complex ones, and no matter how many songs you write or how many web pages you consciously grey out, or what volume of tasteful 911 logos you design, it's not going to smooth brows or crystallize emotions. In fact, it's hard not to be distracted from your feelings today by all the feelings that are being manufactured for you. But try. And, really, wouldn't it be nicer to just call someone you love? And not fake-love, but love-love. Make sure they're still there. And thank God for that.
But don't let me tell you what to do, either.