Where Eagles Fly

For over 20 years, the rock star Sammy Hagar has celebrated his birthday with an annual concert and party for fans at his nightclub in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This year, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made the usual festivities impossible, so Sammy came up with an alternative that was arguably better: a pay-per-view performance that anyone could see, not just the lucky few who could make the trip to Cabo. The actual performance was recorded on October 8 on Catalina Island, with Sammy, his current band The Circle, and a couple special guests (Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon and my main man, Rick Springfield) playing on the beach to a socially distanced audience of boaters anchored in the harbor, and then the event was streamed online a week later.

As fate would have it, Sammy’s former bandmate, Eddie Van Halen, passed away two days before the birthday bash concert. Eddie was acknowledged during the show with a moment of silence followed by the Van Halen hit “Right Now.” It was a fitting tribute… but for my money, the better one took place during the rehearsal the night before with a song that didn’t make the final playlist.

“Eagles Fly” was the third single from Sammy’s 1987 solo album I Never Said Goodbye, which was cut in just ten days to fulfill a contractual obligation after he’d already joined Van Halen. Ironically, considering the circumstances of its recording, the album became his highest-charting solo effort, no doubt boosted by the popularity of “Van Hagar” at the time. The big singles from it, “Give to Live” and “Eagles Fly,” both had a similar sound to Sammy’s work with VH and would be integrated into Van Halen’s live shows during the years he spent with them. It also finally came out in 2015 that Eddie had, in fact, played on the studio version of “Eagles.” But even without all those Eddie connections, the overall tone of the song is just perfect for a eulogy: spiritual, yearning, a bit melancholy but also hopeful. I’ve always liked this one. It came out during my freshman year of college, another of those songs I remember from the hours I spent in the student union watching MTV on the big projection TV and also one that resonated with personal issues I was experiencing at the time. All of that history came flooding back as I watched this clip, and I’m not ashamed to admit I got a little teary. Of course, it probably didn’t help that Michael Anthony — the former bassist for Van Halen who now plays with The Circle — was visibly fighting to hold it together.

Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glasses and flick your Bics (take it old-school, none of that new-fangled smartphone lighting!)… for Eddie…

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Biden’s Closing Argument

Confession time: I didn’t watch the presidential debates. What would have been the point? We already know these men, we know what they’re about and how they conduct themselves. Anyone who claims to be undecided at this point is simply being obstinate or hasn’t been paying attention. Also, they probably shouldn’t be allowed to handle sharp things or have access to the car keys.

That said, I did review the highlights of last night’s debacle, and if I somehow had been among the obstinately undecided, Joe Biden’s final statement would’ve closed the deal for me. The question posed to him at the end of the event was “What will you say during your inaugural address to Americans who did not vote for you?” And here’s his response:

“I will say, I’m an American President. I represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me, and I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope. We’re going to move; we’re going to choose science over fiction. We’re going to choose hope over fear. We’re going to choose to move forward because we have enormous opportunities, enormous opportunities to make things better.

We can grow this economy, we can deal with the systemic racism. At the same time, we can make sure that our economy is being run and moved and motivated by clean energy, creating millions of new jobs. That’s the fact, that’s what we’re going to do. And I’m going to say, as I said at the beginning, what is on the ballot here is the character of this country. Decency, honor, respect. Treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I’m going to make sure you get that. You haven’t been getting it the last four years.

Bolded emphasis is mine, because those are the bits that matter the most. Science over fiction, hope over fear, decency, honor, respect. And treating people with dignity. That’s what I want America to be, that’s what I want from my government, that’s my definition of “presidential”… and all of these things are demonstrably beyond the current occupant of the White House, and of his party in general. The Republican Party, whatever it may once have been, has become the party of ignorant cruelty, and I want to see them crushed. I don’t know if I will. After 2016, who the hell knows what’s going to happen? But it’s what I want. Every last one of those filthy bums, from Trump to Mitch McConnell to my own senator, Utah’s self-appointed “constitutional expert” and all-around douchebag Mike Lee, need to be ousted from their positions of power and exiled to the desert for 40 years to think on what they’ve done. Enough of the playground bullies and smug gloating knaves. Just enough. I refuse to believe that neo-Nazis and know-nothings outnumber people who want this country to work for everyone. The only question is whether or not the GOP will be able to cheat their way into another victory. I hope the Democrats are prepared for that this time… that they’ve finally gotten it through their heads that the other side is not honorable and is not going to work with them. Ever. Until they are made to. We’ll see.

And in the meantime, I will cling to the ideals, as liberals tend to do, as I have so many times before: Science over fiction, hope over fear. Decency, honor, respect, dignity.

Debate transcript courtesy of Rev.com

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This Is Curiously Satisfying

Watch all the way to the end…  also, extra points to the makers for using the original filming locations!

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Barack Unbound

Former president Barack Obama spoke at a drive-in campaign rally in Philadelphia tonight. And while it’s always a pleasure to listen to this dapper, articulate man deliver a speech — especially these days, after four years of that other man’s blustering, sneering, nonsensical word salads — this one was especially entertaining. Obama is finally — finally! — displaying some of the pent-up frustrations that he and every Democrat and so many other decent-minded people have been feeling. He was on fire tonight, by turns incredulous, as if he just can’t believe the bullshit that’s been going on; blunt, as he scored hit after hit on the flailing Con Artist in Chief’s record of incompetence and graft; and finally, in that way that he has always been so good at, hopeful.

As I said, he landed a lot of on-target blows against the current president, everything from his failure to rise to the responsibility of the office he holds to his condescending attitude the previous night toward the very state where Obama was speaking to the new revelation of a secret Chinese bank account and the fact that the president doesn’t pay as much in taxes as a working American. If you despise Donald Trump, there was a lot of red meat here for you to savor. But the topic that really earned Obama’s ire was the Trump administration’s utter failure to handle the pandemic:

We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook that would have shown them how to respond before the virus reached our shores. They probably used it to I don’t know, prop up a wobbly table somewhere. We don’t know where that playbook went. Eight months into this pandemic, cases are rising again across this country. Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself. Just last night, he complained up in Erie that the pandemic made him go back to work. I’m quoting him. He was upset that the pandemic’s made him go back to work. If he’d actually been working the whole time, it never would’ve gotten this bad.

So, look, here’s the truth. I want to be honest here. This pandemic would have been challenging for any president but this idea that somehow this White House has done anything but completely screw this up… it’s just not true. I’ll give you a very specific example. Korea identified its first case at the same time that the United States did. At the same time, their per capita death toll is just 1.3% of what ours is. In Canada, it’s just 39% of what ours is. Other countries are still struggling with the pandemic but they’re not doing as bad as we are because they’ve got a government that’s actually been paying attention.

And that means lives lost. And that means an economy that doesn’t work. And just yesterday, when asked if he’d do anything differently, Trump said, “Not much.” Really? Not much? Nothing you can think of that could have helped some people keep their loved ones alive? So, Joe’s not going to screw up testing. He’s not going to call scientists idiots. He’s not going to host a superspreader event at the White House. Joe will get this pandemic under control with a plan to make testing free and widely available, to get a vaccine to every American cost free and to make sure our frontline heroes never ask other countries for their equipment they need.

Republicans [have] tried to repeal or undermine [the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare] more than 60 times.

And when they’ve been asked about it, they keep on promising, “We’re going to have a great replacement.” They said, “It’s coming.” It’s been coming in two weeks for the last 10 years. Where is it? Where is this great plan to replace Obamacare? They’ve had 10 years to do it. There is no plan. They’ve never had one. Instead they’ve attacked the Affordable Care Act at every turn, driving up costs, driving up the uninsured. Now, they’re trying to dismantle your care in the Supreme Court as we speak, as quickly as they can in the middle of a pandemic with nothing but empty promises to take its place. It’s shameful. The idea that you would take healthcare away from people at the very moment where people need it most, what is the logic of that? There is no logic. Joe knows that the first job of a president is to keep us safe from all threats, foreign, domestic or microscopic.

The entire speech is worth listening to if you have the time and inclination, but that’s the important part right there. COVID-19 is the albatross around Trump’s neck. It should be his downfall. It looks like it will be his downfall. I pray that it is his downfall. We desperately need a president who gives a damn about other people.

On another note, it’s good to see America’s first Vulcan president worked up about something. I really wish we’d seen more of this President Obama during his term. Things might have gone very, very differently if he’d called out Mitch McConnell on his perfidy or defended the ACA as vigorously as he does now that it’s in danger of being obliterated, instead of just trusting that the American people would inform themselves and make wise votes based on the issues…

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Science!

If you’re an older Gen Xer like myself, you’ll probably remember the television miniseries V, from way back in 1983. That’s the one where friendly-seeming aliens suddenly arrive on Earth and start to integrate themselves into our societies (and governments), only to be revealed as inhuman lizard people who are here to steal our planet’s water supply and use humanity as cannon fodder in their galactic wars… and as food.

Summarized like that, it sounds utterly ridiculous, but the story was actually surprisingly effective… and effectively chilling. It was essentially Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here — which told of a fascist takeover of the United States — dressed up in the sci-fi trappings that were popular at the time. I was 14 when it aired, and it made a huge impression on me. I saw the parallels between the Visitors and the Nazis, and I completely bought into all of it, all except for one small detail: the minority population that the Visitors demonize and begin to persecute isn’t a particular human race — because of course to alien lizard people, humans are all the same, right? — but rather a human occupation. Scientists. Yes, scientists are the “Jews” of this story, the ones who are made to register with the authorities and who begin to “disappear.” I mean, it made sense in context, because it was scientists who presented the biggest threat to the Visitors as the ones most likely to figure out their dreadful secret and also to come up with a weapon to fight back against them. But when other humans started turning on scientists in favor of the alien invaders… I had a hard time swallowing that.

Mile-wide flying saucers that can hang in the air over major cities undisturbed? Phony skinsuits that can somehow conceal the decidedly inhuman contours of a reptilian face and look perfectly normal? Vast chambers filled with thousands of suspended animation capsules? Interspecies sex between a mammal-person and a lizard-person that results in a pregnancy? Hell, for that matter, a species advanced enough to create all of the preceding but who can’t figure out how to simply make water out of hydrogen and oxygen and instead have to cross six light-years to physically take it? I accepted all of that without question, because science fiction. But fascist leaders who manage to make people distrust and then eventually to hate scientists was unbelievable to me. Because I’ve always been interested in science and respected the people who figure it out, I guess. And I naively assumed that others did as well. Because… science! Science is a good thing, right? A necessary thing. How could you not trust or believe scientists, or want to support them?

Well, yesterday in the science-fictional year of 2020, Donald Trump, on the campaign trail in Nevada, told a group of his followers that if his opponent Joe Biden is elected, the country will be in big trouble because “he’ll listen to scientists.”

He’ll listen to scientists.

Try as I might, I can’t see the downside to that. But Trump’s people sure do. They’re the ones who keep resisting the common-sense health mandates to wear masks in public, because they can’t make the logical connection that a temporary inconvenience will end this fucking plague, or at least beat it back to the point that we could start to resume something resembling normal life instead of this accursed twilight existence we’ve been stumbling through since March. They’re the ones who don’t even believe there is a virus, or that it’s all that dangerous. Who think the numbers are overblown because doctors think they can get more funding for their hospitals if they show more patients with COVID-19. Who think it’s all just a hoax made up to make their president look bad. And there are a lot of these people, especially here in my home state of Utah.

Suddenly that musty old bit of event television from my youth seems much more plausible. And more relevant. And I have to tell you, that scares me to death. Because Sinclair Lewis — and Kenneth Johnson, the writer of V — were right. It can happen here.

Fifteen days to Election Day.

 

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In Memoriam: Eddie Van Halen

What I’m about to say might shock my three Loyal Readers, but I’m afraid it’s true: I’ve always been more of a casual Van Halen fan than a true devotee. A “greatest hits” kind of fan, if you take my meaning. I don’t even have a particular preference for the Diamond Dave or Van Hagar eras of the band. I like ’em both. I guess what I’m saying is that, while I always liked Van Halen, I wasn’t deeply invested in them like many of my peers. Even so, hearing this afternoon that Eddie Van Halen, the virtuoso guitar wizard who (along with his brother Alex) was the band’s namesake, had died of throat cancer was like a kick in the gut.

While the band had formed in 1972 and hit the big time in 1978, I was only vaguely aware of them until their biggest single “Jump” reached the charts in early 1984. I was fourteen. I remember seeing the “Jump” clip on Friday Night Videos — it seems like it played on the show every week for months and months — and thinking that Eddie looked like a cocky punk with that smirk of his, while Alex didn’t make much impression at all. David Lee Roth was entertaining in his outrageousness, but honestly the one I was most drawn to was Michael Anthony, the bassist. His style was the closest to my own, and he just struck me as a good guy, someone you’d enjoy hanging out with (in as much as you can tell from a music video). These guys just weren’t cool to me the way somebody like, say, ZZ Top was. I loved the song, though, and its follow-up “I’ll Wait,” and its follow-up “Panama.” I loved them so much that when I finally got the album these songs were coming from, 1984, it was something of a disappointment, as it turned out that I hated half the songs on it as much as I loved the other half. I had that experience again and again as I explored Van Halen’s catalog, both their older work and then the post-1984 era when Sammy Hagar — who I knew from his solo record Three Lock Box — replaced Roth as the band’s lead singer. As it happened, the stuff I didn’t like was almost always the songs where Eddie indulged himself with long solos that I understood were technically impressive, but just tended to irritate me. I much preferred the more radio-friendly tunes where melody dominated over show-off shredding.

However, given enough time, it’s not unusual for things that formerly annoyed you to become familiar, then comfortable, and then sometimes even beloved, and that’s what happened with me and Eddie Van Halen. His music and his sound were so ubiquitous during my coming-of-age years, such an enormous part of the soundtrack of my youth, that I gradually found myself warming to them, coming to understand what he was doing and why it mattered. (I underwent a similar process with Prince, another GenX icon I just didn’t “get” when he was in his prime.)

And then one day, five years ago, I found myself at an outdoor concert venue on a sticky summer night, clapping and screaming along with everyone else as Eddie and Diamond Dave stalked each other on an enormous stage during one of their occasional reunion tours. If I remember correctly, they didn’t finish that tour; tensions between Eddie and Dave tore them apart before the end, just as they had all those years before. I think my city was one of their last stops before it all went south. But whatever happened after they played Salt Lake, the motors were ticking along like clockwork that night at Usana Amphitheater. Eddie was 60 years old at the time. He looked trim and healthy. He looked happy, a handsome man in a plain white shirt whose youthful arrogance and pretension and rock-star bullshit had long ago been burned away by experience. He was an elder statesman in full control of his skills and his instrument, his fingers moving across the strings and frets seemingly without effort, simply a joy to behold.

I’m glad I got the chance to see him at that stage of his life. The band itself may have been past its prime, but it felt like Eddie Van Halen was just coming into his. I’m sorry he’s gone only five years later.
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The Reagan Test

As I’ve noted before, I have exactly zero uncertainty about who I’m voting for this year. There really isn’t even a choice to be made, as far as I’m concerned, and I find it difficult to believe anyone out there still believes there is. But just in case there is someone who hasn’t made up their mind yet, and assuming that person somehow stumbles across my little corner of the internet, I’d like to share John Scalzi’s recent suggestion that we ought to apply the question Ronald Reagan asked the electorate way back in 1980 to our current situation: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” (To which my pop-culture-saturated brain immediately conjures up the flinty voice of Clint Eastwood for an addendum: “Well, are you… punk?!” Which, if you remember anything at all about the Reagan era, is not an unreasonable thing to think of.) Anyhow, this is John’s reply to that question, and I couldn’t have said it any better myself:

Four years ago, I could leave my house without wearing a mask (I mean, I guess I could leave the house without one, if I was an asshole who didn’t care about the health and safety of others as well as myself, but I’m not, so I wear a mask).

Four years ago I could go to a restaurant or see a movie or go to a party or get on a plane without worrying about possibly contracting a disease that could put me on a respirator, kill me or give me serious, chronic, long-term health issues.

Four years ago I didn’t worry about sending my kid to school.

Four years ago I didn’t have family and friends who had to choose between exposing themselves to a disease that could kill or seriously debilitate them, or being able to pay rent or buy medications.

Four years ago I had a federal government that actually had a well-thought out plan for dealing with highly-infectious, potentially pandemic-level diseases like the one we’re currently living through.

Four years ago I could trust the information from the CDC (and NOAA, while we’re at it) to represent the best available scientific information, not the information that was deemed the least damaging to the president, according to political apparatchiks installed into those organizations by the White House.

Four years ago I didn’t have a president who lied about the severity of a pandemic to the public while privately acknowledging that severity.

Four years ago tens of thousands of people more than there should have been weren’t dead, and even more sick, of a disease that they might have avoided if accurate information and a well-formulated plan had been offered at the federal level. These numbers include people I know and care about.

Four years ago there were far more countries I could travel to with an American passport than ones I could not, including the one directly north of us.

Four years ago, I could go to conventions and have book tours to promote my work and to make connections with business associates.

Four years ago I could get nearly any kind of soda I wanted in an aluminum can.

Four years ago there were no shortages of basic home necessities.

Four years ago I did not have a president who championed white supremacy and conspiracy theories over science and the well-being of all Americans.

Four years ago I didn’t worry whether my vote, or the votes of family members and friends, would be counted fairly and accurately.

Four years ago my health insurance cost less and covered more.

Four years ago I didn’t think about whether my mail would be sent or arrive in a timely manner.

Four years ago I had a president who hadn’t insulted the work and sacrifice of service members, who include both friends and family members.

Four years ago I didn’t worry whether my access to the services and function of the federal government, in an emergency or at all other times, would be contingent upon whether the president had decided someone in my state state was his friend or his foe, or had flattered him enough that he felt inclined to do the job that he was in fact required to do, by law and by the Constitution.

So, no. I’m not better off today than I was four years ago. I am in fact rather worse off: I have a little bit more money, at the expense of an actual, functioning country and society. This is not a good exchange. I will vote accordingly.

I know a lot of people are unhappy with the thought of a Biden presidency for various reasons, but four more years of this… chaos… won’t do any good for anyone who actually works for a living.

VOTE ACCORDINGLY.

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A Song You Remember From Your Childhood

30-Day Song Challenge, Day 29: A Song You Remember From Your Childhood

“Sundown” is the title track from Gordon Lightfoot’s fifth album on the Warner Bros/Reprise label (his tenth album, overall). It was a number-one hit in the summer of 1974. I was just under five years old at the time, so it’s unlikely I have any real memories of the song in the context of that year. And yet somehow it’s become associated in my mind with a series of impressions that add up to a scene that very likely did occur around that time… so maybe I actually do remember it. Memory is such a weird, slippery thing, especially when you’re looking back across four and a half decades. But whether I’m experiencing a genuine memory when I hear “Sundown” or just something I’ve manufactured for myself that uses the song as accompaniment, it always conjures up a vision of riding alongside my pretty young mother in her 1956 Ford pickup truck, the one with rust-red primer on the fenders and an eight-track deck welded into the dashboard. A long bar of sunshine-polygons pivots across the curving sides of the windshield and the truck shimmies and squeaks as old cars do, like living things with a touch of arthritis in their joints. The sweet, floral smell of just-cut alfalfa flows through the open wing-window. Dad has a swather machine and picks up a few extra bucks on the weekends cutting and baling hay for the local farmers. We’re on our way to meet him with a midday snack, a box of his favorite raspberry Zingers on the bench seat between us, a styrofoam cooler on the floor between us loaded with cans of Fanta Red Cream Soda and Coke in tall glass bottles. I’m drowsy in the heat, and the world seems very large and uncrowded.

This memory is a safe place, a happy place that I find myself retreating to more and more often as I get old and current events become more grim and frustrating. Strange that it would be so tangled up with a song about a “hard-headed woman that’s got me feeling mean.” But like I said… memory is weird…

 

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A Song By An Artist Whose Voice You Love

30-Day Song Challenge, Day 28: A Song By An Artist Whose Voice You Love

An artist whose voice I love? Well, let’s see… I already used the Bangles way back at Song Number 9, so Susanna Hoffs is out. How about…

Mary Chapin Carpenter.

You might remember her from a string of hits on the country charts back in the early ’90s that included “Down at the Twist and Shout,” “Passionate Kisses,” “I Feel Lucky,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” “I Take My Chances,”  and her biggest seller, the number-one favorite “Shut Up and Kiss Me.”

Despite these successes, though, mainstream country was never a great fit for Chapin — I call her Chapin; I have no idea if anyone else does or if she would be cool with it — especially at that particular moment when her contemporaries tended to be glammed-up dollies like Reba McEntire and Faith Hill. By contrast, Chapin has always seemed to be most comfortable in a flannel shirt and a ponytail, and neither her speaking nor singing voice has the slightest trace of a twang. She took five years off in the late ’90s, but since the turn of the century — man, that still sounds weird! — she’s been recording and releasing new music that has moved farther and farther away from the country genre, both in sound and subject matter. Today, it’s probably best to describe her simply as a singer-songwriter whose work comprises literate meditations on aging, politics, and contemporary events. Sounds pretentious, but her music always had an intellectual edge, which is partly why I like her. Her lyrics are smart and often include striking imagery, as well as unexpected flashes of humor, even when the subject matter seems heavy. She’s a storyteller, which isn’t that unusual among singer-songwriters or country musicians, but the way in which she tells her stories are uniquely her own, and as a wannabe storyteller myself, I admire that.

As to her voice, it can be sexy on the right song, but mostly it’s warm and smooth. The cliche’d description would be “like honey,” but cliche or not, that’s what it reminds me of. Especially on the song I’ve selected for this post, which is the introspective title track from her 1994 album Stones in the Road, the same one that yielded the playful “Shut Up and Kiss Me.” This one refers to historical events that would have more resonance for Baby Boomers than my own age demographic, but I still relate to the overall mood and themes, and I love the final verse about what becomes of those innocent children when they hit working age.

“Stones” was not released as a single, so there’s no official video for it. There are some live performances on YouTube, but I really like the sound in the studio version you’ll hear here. Chapin didn’t do many videos in any case; much like the glamorous hair and dresses, she never seemed comfortable doing them. It’s probably for the best anyhow. Just close your eyes and pay attention to the words she uses…

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I Wish We Could Move On from This

So here we are again. This day..

This year, for the first time, I have one of those “healing fields” right next door to my house. Long rows of American flags on the lawn of the local civic center, standing about as tall as I am on poles made of white PVC, their colors bright under the September sun. During rare moments when there’s a lull in the traffic on the busy road out front, I can hear a whispering sound as folds of nylon cloth ripple and slide past each other in the light breeze. It’s rather peaceful. Pleasant, even. And yet… I hate it.

I hate that it’s been 19 years since that other sunny September morning and we’re still putting up these fields of flags and ritualistically posting images of the lost towers and the words “never forget” on our social media. What good does it do us as a society to keep doing this? How long will it take, how many years of putting up “healing fields” does it require, until this nation finally is healed? Or even beginning to heal? Or at least pretending to?

Not that anyone asked, but I’ll tell you what I think: I don’t believe Americans really want this particular wound to heal. I think we enjoy our martyrdom too much.

Blasphemy, I know, and maybe more than a little asshole-ish to say it out loud. But look… we don’t behave this way around December 7, and as far as I know, we never did. We just got on with the business at hand. I suppose it can be argued that 9/11 was more traumatic than Pearl Harbor, because it happened on the mainland instead of 2500 miles away, right in the heart of our most important city, and we all saw the towers fall on live television. But still… it’s been nearly two decades. An entire generation has been born and (mostly) grown up in that time. So why are we still doing this?

In a couple of recent posts, I mentioned the way I reacted to breaking up with someone when I was 20, the way I moped about it for much, much longer than I should have. I didn’t see it that way at the time. Back then, all I knew was that I was hurting. But here’s the thing: Looking back now, I think that after a while, I chose to keep hurting. It became a sort of identity for me. I saw myself as the wounded romantic, the tragic figure who lost at love. In some weird, fucked-up, masochistic way, I think I actually liked hurting and pining for a lost love. But it was foolish and self-destructive. Maybe a little bit phony, too; that is, maybe I wasn’t really hurting so much as I believed myself to be. And it was self-limiting: Who knows what opportunities I missed out on, that I was utterly blind to, because I was so absorbed with this… idea. Because in the end, that’s what I was really hung up on, an idea of loss more than the actual girl that I lost. And it was all, when you get down to it, somehow… somehow it was my fault that I felt that way. It was my choice to remain in that headspace instead of pulling myself together and getting on with living.

I think that’s what Americans are doing with 9/11 at this point. We’re choosing to continue this annual ritual of mourning that is, to my way of thinking, far out of proportion with the number of lives actually lost. Three thousand people died in the twin towers and in the Pentagon and in that field in Pennsylvania, and that is tragic. The manner of their deaths was absolutely horrible. But how many died in the wars of revenge that we waged after 9/11? How many have died of COVID-19 in the past few months, and how many are going to die of it before it finally burns itself out or recedes to the level of an annual nuisance instead of a scourge? Are they going to get an annual day of remembrance too? Because I think this damned plague has been every bit as traumatic and painful as that terror attack 19 years ago. But that’s different somehow, isn’t it?

Don’t misunderstand. I’m sure there are still people who lost loved ones in the attack or who live near to where it happened who struggle this time of year. I’m not unsympathetic to that. I don’t think we should stop all commemoration of the event or of the lives lost. But I’d like to see it start to scale back. To become a regional thing that happens at the places where people actually died, like the annual commemoration on the USS Arizona. We shouldn’t forget what happened or ignore it moving forward, but can’t we be a little more measured about it now that we have some distance from it?

And for god’s sake, can we avoid turning this into yet another “America, Fuck Yeah!” holiday? Because I fear we’re drifting that way now that this day has been officially designated as “Patriot Day.” In addition to that field of flags, my hometown is planning a classic-car parade and fireworks tonight at — naturally — 9:11 PM. I can’t tell you how distasteful I find that. This day is supposed to be a solemn memorial for the dead, but let’s have a party too. But I suppose that’s the America way, when you get down to it. Armistice Day becomes Veterans Day, which becomes a three-day weekend and an opportunity for a killer deal on a new pickup truck. I know that I’m just spitting into the wind with my desire to see Patriot Day rolled back to something quiet and small and dignified. But then I’d also like to see American troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan once and for all, and I’d like to not have to take off my shoes at the airport anymore too.

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