Friday, August 17, 2007

Bring your own popcorn

Yeah, Elvis is alive and in seclusion (eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches), Apollo 11 never landed on the moon--it was a video feed from Arizona--and the earth really is flat.

So I should have guessed Emily Lewis would be involved in a 9/11-conspiracy flick showing in Amherst tonight. She is one of the flag critics who testified against the stars and stripes before the Select Board on 9/10/2001—The Eve of Destruction.

No she wasn’t the one who branded our flag a “symbol terrorism and death and fear and destruction and oppression”—that was Professor Jennie Traschen. Ms Lewis simply deemed the flag a “military symbol.”

So the Twin Towers came down from explosives set from within? Perhaps the busiest two buildings on the planet, yet somebody had time to plant precise explosive charges (presumably you take your time when dealing with high explosives) without anybody noticing?

One of these buildings was bombed a few years earlier so I would imagine any employees who survived that would be sensitive to strange activity like somebody sticking wires in objects bigger than a breadbox.

And if the plot was that well orchestrated how come no explosives were set inside the Pentagon or the Capital Building, where flight 93 was heading before heroes brought her down in that Pennsylvania farm field?

Norman Mailer said it best (in response to the Apollo 11 moon hoax conspiracy: “that the event if bogus was as great a creation in mass hoodwinking, deception, and legerdemain as the true ascent was in discipline and technology. Indeed, conceive of the genius of such a conspiracy. It would take criminals and confidence men mightier, more trustworthy and more resourceful than anything in this century or the ones before. Merely to conceive of such men was the surest way to know the event was not staged."

Amherst Bulletin, Column 9/29/2001

As a veteran flight attendant the 35-year-old mother of two would have realized the wayward jet was moving way too low and fast. The unmistakable image of the #1 World Trade Center Tower certainly provided the final, fatal clue: “Oh my God! Oh my god!”

An exclamation gasped by millions of fellow Americans who activated their televisions to whatever station they viewed the previous night to behold majestic twin towers of glass and steel billowing black smoke. Hopelessly trapped workers choosing death by impact over smoke or fire. Oh my God!

At a contentious Selectboard meeting, only 12 hours earlier, Town Meeting member Jennie Traschen's monotone manifesto was as chilling as it was (extraordinarily) mistimed: “What the flag stands for is it’s a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and repression…It’s not something to be proud of.” My God!

In Afghanistan that said about the Taliban flag (publicly or privately) would be a dying declaration. And how many Afghani women grow up to be well-paid professors?

The next morning Amherst arose to a brilliant blue sky--the onset of yet another stunningly beautiful day. Downtown bustled: workers in front of St. Brigid’s church jackhammered concrete, causally dressed business folks crisscrossed the main intersection, moms pushed baby carriages, and on every corner smiling college students flaunted their youth.

Sipping cappuccino at Starbucks while glancing over North Pleasant Street Francis Scott Key would have lamented “Our flags were still not there.” And perhaps cried when, later that day, the Queen ordered Buckingham Palace to play our national anthem.

In Houston, Texas a businessman picks up USA Today and reads the Amherst Selectboard decision from the previous night in ‘Across the USA’ . So how did that make him feel?

“I shook my head and once again was embarrassed that I was a native of Amherst and that such an issue was nationally defining my hometown. Minutes later, the TV in my hotel room began to show the unfolding horrors against our country and its innocent people.”

With a mixture of tremendous pride and tearful remorse the 29 American flags went back up…but now at half-staff. And the bells, bells, bells of St Brigid’s Church provided a haunting backdrop for the duration of that despicable day--the bleakest morning in collective memory.

At twilight's last gleaming, three New York firefighters hoisted a glistening American flag “in full glory reflected” over the dark rubble hiding hundred of their partners and thousands of everyday people. 57 years earlier Old Glory went up, not to claim Iwo Jima (because the struggle was still in doubt), but to rally the troops bent on avenging Pearl Harbor.

This too was a treacherous sneak attack….another morning of infamy. Only now the soldiers who required rallying and reassurance to overcome exhaustion and despair were civilians: police, firefighters, EMT's, construction workers, doctors and nurses.

On Sunday evening the bells of St. Brigid's beckoned folks of all denominations and colors, young and old, healthy and infirmed to an interfaith service for all of the victims both living and dead.

As Congressman Olver spoke somberly about public safety personnel--New York’s finest and bravest--sprinting into dying buildings, the mournful baying of a firetruck resonated from town center. Amherst’s finest, just doing their job.

One of the arguments against Amherst's prolonged public flag-display was anti-militarism. Yet those critics endorsed flag display on the 4'th of July, Memorial Day, Veterans day or any other holiday commemorating military events.

Unfurling the flag exclusively around "appropriate" military holidays, simply reinforces the stereotype that our flag is merely a military symbol.

The Town Manager distributed a private email from the Veterans Agent to him dated 8/13/01 that says "I thought I would leave them up until after Labor Day." In his memo dated 9/4/01 Del Castilho ordered the flags down "…because they have not been authorized by the Selectboard."

So why didn't Del Castilho order them down on 8/14 when the Veterans Agent first put them up? And why did Del Castilho tell this newspaper (8/24) he wanted to gauge residents reaction on the four month display saying "I don't know if people will think that's too much."

The Town Manager felt less is better. "I must say there are more flags than I expected and that, in my opinion, the display is great for special occasions but seems a bit too much for an extended display."

Echoing this minimalist philosophy, graduate student Leo Maley-- just 12 hours before New York’s skyline became lonely--sarcastically suggested: "Why stop at 29? We ought to have 50…we ought to have 100…we ought to have 2,000. Maybe we ought to have the largest flag in the United States flying from the town common. Ah, but--I don't know--maybe that wouldn't be enough."

Obviously Maley never encountered the Chinese proverb "Be careful what you wish for…." Or Mr. Key’s stirring finale:
“And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”


Gavin Andresen said...

The 9/11 conspiracy theories prove how irrational a certain segment of the population really is. I walked by the Unitarian church in Amherst and was amazed to see an ad for a 9/11 film that would "show that the towers fell faster than free-fall", or some such nonsense.

Um, yeah, right-- I guess They attached rockets to the top of both towers and PUSHED them towards the ground... See for a thorough debunking of all the popular conspiracy theories.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, but last year a very reputable national poll found one-third of Americans actually believed this conspiracy nonsense.

Of course, my theory has always been about one-third of Americans are whacked (but why, oh why, do SO many of them reside in Amherst?)

Tommy said...

Good post.