Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001

The only words that have really made sense to me of the madness,
and of the pursuing, unfortunate nonsense
of all that has come since:


"The Dead of September 11"
by Toni Morrison

Some have God's words;
others have songs of comfort for the bereaved.
If I can pluck courage here, I would like to speak directly to the dead--the September dead.
Those children of ancestors born in every continent on the planet:
Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas...; born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, geles, wide straw hats, yarmulkes, goatskin, wooden shoes, feathers and cloths to cover their hair.
But I would not say a word until I could set aside all I know or believe
about nations, wars, leaders, the governed and ungovernable;
all I suspect about armor and entrails.
First I would freshen my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil---
wanton or studied; explosive or quietly sinister; whether born of a sated appetite or hunger; of vengeance or the simple compulsion to stand up before falling down.
I would purge my language of hypberbole; of its eagerness to analyze the levels of wickedness; ranking them; calculating their higher or lower status among others of its kind.
Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts.
Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be seduced by blitz.
To speak to you, the dead of September 11,
I must not claim false intimacy or summon an overheated heart
glazed just in time for a camera.
I must be steady and I must be clear, knowing all the time that I have nothing to say--no words stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you have become.
And I have nothing to give either--
except this gesture, this thread thrown between your humanity and mine:
I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot out of its box of flesh to understand, as you have done, the wit of eternity:
its gift of unhinged release tearing through the darkness of its knell.
Lastly, an excerpt from Morrison's Nobel Prize Acceptance speech which I reproduce here, aware of all the "plundering," "limiting" words that will surround this day...
"The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek - it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas."
--taken from The Legacy Project