Jimmy Breslin was right. It’s a lousy idea to turn the victims of 9/11 into martyrs and just as lousy to turn Ground Zero into a glorified cemetery. It was wrong in 2003, when he railed against both ideas in his newspaper column; and it is now, when the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is about to be
commemorated exploited in a solemn fit of national mourning.
It’s not that Breslin failed to sympathize with the families of those who died in the attack, as I’ve written before. It’s that many more who have died under ordinary circumstances, caused not by terrorists but by common corruption and greed in American society, are no less important. In Breslin’s words, their deaths were “pretty tragic for their loved ones, too,” and no less noteworthy. “If we have a memorial for some people, then we should have one for all.”
As to building new skyscrapers at Ground Zero, he saw no virtue in that either. He figured they’ll be flattened again. Besides, they would be a symbol of overweaning pride for Breslin, who has always been wary of hubris. It’s one of the lessons of his streetwise education, worth remembering by those in power far above the streets.
The official grandees who will trot out to lead the Ground Zero ceremony on Sept. 11 — two presidents, three governors and two mayors — will include the former Bullshitter-in-Chief, of course, and Rudolph Giuliani, for whom Breslin had special contempt: “Mention the World Trade Center to Giuliani and to him that means I, me, my catastrophe, my site, my workers, my fund, my all of it.” Or as Joe Biden famously said: “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11.”
(Crossposted at HuffPo)
Postscript: Sept. 11 — Paul Krugman writes in a blogpost, The Years of Shame:
What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.
He adds, “The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.” It takes guts for a NYT columnist to write that. But it’s also being too kind. By re-electing the Bullshitter-in-Chief in 2004 — electing him for the first time, actually, since it was the Supreme Court that put in him the White House in 2000 — the majority of the nation’s voters showed that it had no heart at all. And no brains, either.
As I wrote in a blogpost on the third anniversary of 9/11, in 2004:
Do Americans realize that by not holding the Bush gang accountable for gross violations of democratic principles of governance they would be condoning what has happened and blackening their own reputation? That by giving the Bush gang “four more years” they would be stamping their approval on the historic anomaly of the 2000 election, when the U.S. Supreme Court mistakenly appointed an unelected president?
To elect the Bush gang, truly for the first time, would be tantamount to shrugging off the American ideals for which the terrorists of 9/11 had such revulsion. It would be the worst way to honor the nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania who died on 9/11.