Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years Later: The Complexity of Freedom

Frequent crossings into Manhattan this summer had me thinking about the World Trade Center site. While it was clear that an enormous amount of construction and development on the site was in progress, I wondered --why had it taken so long to really get underway?  Granted, it represents a precious piece of lower Manhattan real estate, but larger projects are no doubt undertaken and accomplished in a shorter amount of time. There clearly  is an enormous amount of  emotion tied up with the loss of more than 2700 lives. At the same time, did the delay, wrangling, and lack of speedy process serve as a metaphor -- perhaps a metaphor of living -- for an identity crisis that afflicted the United States of America in the wake of this most grievous terrorist attack on U.S. soil.


With George W. Bush's attack on Iraq, which essentially destabilized that country, followed by years of economic malaise and now Barack Obama's own equally well-intended but questionable expansion of our military adventure in Afghanistan,it would appear that there may be something to this. After all, America has always been, first and foremost, a land of action. In the days foLlowing the 9/11 attacks, the _US basked in international goodwill and sympathy. Many Muslims worldwide criticized the actions of the hijackers and their puppetmasters, saying this did not represent Islam. The current threats of Koran burnings and polls showing that Americans supported freedom of religion but were not completely comfortable with the building of the mosque within the Ground Zero neighborhood, suggests, if nothing else, that this national soul searching continues. Anger and distrust toward Islam continues. American Muslims,who deplored the 9/11 attacks, are now pressed into a corner.Can moderate Muslims worldwide do more to find ways to challenge the extremists ? Who knows if that is even possible. Does American democracy and the freedom that it offers unwittingly provide fertile ground for those who would destroy or subvert it? President Obama's most recent statement on the growing hostility toward Islam within the US was eloquent and decisive but at the same time fails to address the fears and concerns of other Americans who see us fighting uncertain wars against Muslim peoples overseas, at the same time we are reminded to "never forget" the attacks of that awful day nine years ago. The World Trade Center and memorial rises from the ashes. The fighting overseas continues. Secretary Napolitano warns that the chance of another major terrorist strike continues to exist. New Yorkers remember those long days of fire, smoke and death. The sirens and alarms of emergency vehicles continued for days without end. Nine years later, the sadness remains for the families that lost loved ones, children who last parents.But nine years later,the soul searching and reflection, as evidenced in the current confusion, hostility, and uncertainty, continues without any sign of ending. The New American paradigm in the Age of Terror continues but thankfully so does the Unites States of America as a rambunctious, argumentative and complex home of freedom. There are no easy answers to the complexity of freedom.

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Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
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  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
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  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
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  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
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  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
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  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
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  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
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  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
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  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
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  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo