Home for the Horror Days

Yesterday was my first visit to Ground Zero.  I haven’t stayed away for some righteous reason, but because I’ve always felt like going there is like going to Sparks Steakhouse expecting to see Castellano get shot again (only there’s no tenderloin).  I’m part of the silent New York majority that dies a little every time we hear land-locked rednecks claim that national security is their primary concern, and that deplores the political opportunism and fanatical patriotism that erupted in the wake of 9.11; my favorite late night pass time used to be swiping magnetic flag ribbons off of car bumpers (I must have stolen all of them, because no one seems to have them anymore).

I arranged to drive down from Boston when Obama and McCain announced that they were putting politics aside for the day.  In addition to their visiting Ground Zero together, both candidates pledged to suspend negative advertisements; that’s right – a whole day without McCain accusing his opponent of supporting sex education for kindergarten students.  I know these guys are patronizing megalomaniacs, but I found this to be considerably outrageous.

However, thanks to Mike Bloomberg – who I suspect will be remembered as New York’s finest Mayor since Fiorello LaGuardia – the elephant and donkey show was mostly kept out.  It was still a red, white and blue circus, but Bloomberg denied both candidates the chance to stump, while still allowing them to make brief visits several hours after the early morning ceremonies.

I found few surprises down at Ground Zero.  With the McCain and Obama parade missing, it was pretty much business as usual: short generic speeches from politicos and other leaders, and friends and family reading the names of lost love ones.  Tourists filled the observation deck staring at the vast mass of heavy machines, rocks and rubble; and when they got done mourning some went shopping at Banana Republic, Godiva and the other stores conveniently located in the memorial.

Outside on the waterfront, suited cubicle types went about their business eating lunch and gossiping.  A skirted bagpipe player blew relentlessly, but he was ignored as much as it’s possible to ignore a bagpipe player.  It felt like September 10, 2001.  I stopped for a Bloody Mary.

Back near the walkway into Ground Zero I found the only protestor that I saw in the five or so hours I was down there.  Her name was Desiree – an attractive Latino lady in her late thirties who I would have considered hitting on if she wasn’t holding up a sign that said “NoBama” and shouting “If you people don’t want this to happen again then don’t elect a president who has the word “bomb” in his name.”  I asked if she had reservations about being the single partisan detractor on the street, and she gave me the old Tupac: “Only God can judge me,” adding, “I’m not a Republican or a Democrat – I’m a Christocrat.”  

As the afternoon developed the mood lightened up; firefighters filled bars in the surrounding area, and some people even had barbecues on the street.  I headed to The Patriot – a legendary downtown dive whose flash-prone top-heavy bartenders some might argue are the reason terrorists hate us.  A couple rounds got my emotions running.
I cried yesterday, and not only when they read the name of my college blunt buddy who I lost that morning seven years ago.  I cried because most Americans learned nothing from our tragedy, or from the political ineptitude that followed.  This administration is poised to wreak 9.11 several times over in Pakistan like it has in Iraq, and people are still reading Us magazine and waving flags around.  I won’t be surprised if a 9.11 theme restaurant shows up in Times Square.  

Before you write me hate mail and post comments about this soulless account of New York’s Ground Zero ceremony, consider the folks who truly desecrate the memory of those who fell in the towers.  Picket Rudy Giuliani next time uses his 9.11 story to make millions on the motivational speaking circuit; contact a representative who regularly endorses dangerous foreign policy legislation.  Their public relations people will at least pretend to care about your artificial media-inspired sanctimony.  I won’t. 
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