Tag Archives: New York

Ten Years Of Shock & Awe

I recently moved house. As you do when moving house, I had a clear out of old boxes. Sifting through the miscellany of my life, I stumbled upon some old notebooks. Leafing through the pages of one from 2002-3, I found a two-column list: one column was bullet points of a political speech; the other began as notes to myself on these points, which, further down the column descended into a panoply of expletives.

In early 2003 I was writing for my college newspaper, The Voice. One of my first assignments was to listen to George W Bush’s State Of The Union address and write an opinion piece in response. It was the first time I ever listened to Bush speak for any length of time. What an eye-opener.

I guess I’d always just unconsciously assumed that politicians were a bunch of lying bastards who did stupid things and made a mess of the countries they were administering to. Bush’s 2003 State Of The Union address made me realise that I knew nothing of politics. The sheer outrageousness of the President’s vague assertions about Saddam Hussein’s secret weapons programme, and the intentions they conveyed, turned my stomach.

Bush’s message was crystal clear. His administration planned to invade an economically crippled, internationally isolated country on the most unlikely pretext imaginable: that Iraq posed a threat to the United States, and that pre-emptive action needed to be taken to protect Americans from harm.

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Remembering 9/11

I am not a patriot. I don’t believe in the inherent value of identifying with one nation over another. A nation, to me, is simply a collective noun to describe a group of people living in a particular place at a particular time, with their own more-or-less consensual geographical identity.

That said, I grew up in the suburbs of New York. And I’m a lot like other people who also grew up there. And when terrible things happen to your neighbours, the news hurts you deeply. The news of horrible things happening to people all over the world hurts too — but this is different. I didn’t feel more deeply for the people caught in the attacks in New York (and elsewhere in the US) on 9/11, but I felt differently for them. It was so close to home; they were my neighbours.

I don’t think 9/11 is necessarily the worst thing that’s happened in recent history — but it’s the worst thing that’s happened to my neighbours. It offends me when ordinarily kind, sympathetic people talk about 9/11 like it’s not worthy of their tears, because the US is such a global bastard. I’m not offended as an American, but as a New Yorker.

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