Sunday, January 1, 2017

And Another Thing: They Forgot Never Forget

By Nick

I lived in Westchester County, just outside NYC, on 9/11/01.  I don't really want to re-hash the day.  I'm fortunate I wasn't in the city yet that morning when all hell broke loose, and that I wasn't more directly impacted by what happened than I was.

All told, I lived in the NYC metro area for six years. I commuted into and out of NYC for five and a half of them.  I grew up in Minnesota, which really couldn't be more dissimilar to NYC apart from that fact that both are in the United States.  I love New York City.  It really is a hell of a town.  While the several months directly after 9/11 were terrible in many ways (the smoking, stinking pit a constant reminder of terrorism and a symbol of impending change in our lives), they were also some of the best of my time there, for one reason: the change in the people.

New Yorkers are not known for their niceness.  They can exhibit kindnesses.  But they cultivate and celebrate their brusqueness and arrogance.  I suppose that's what happens to the native populations of massive metropolises.  For a midwestern kid from sleepy St. Paul, there was a bit of culture shock when I first got to the city (which is another demonstration of the arrogance of New Yorkers.  They refer to NYC as simply The City, as if it is the only one that matters and thus no further specification is required).

The constant cacophonous bleating - of people, of car horns, it's truly omni-present - the congestion, the jaywalking, the incessant assault on one's senses from every direction.  Once you acclimate to it, it's intoxicating and habit-forming.  To tap into the vascular system of a city like New York is to throw yourself into a constant roller-coaster ride of culture, craziness, and action.

But it is still a living, breathing organism.  And it took quite a blow to the system on 9/11.  And it reacted in a very human way: by embracing its own humanity.  People in NYC became nice.  Holding the door for the person behind you.  Saying please and thank you.  Slowing down to look around as if to remind oneself that one does in fact live in this amazing place, amidst a wonderful confluence of history and modernity - at least the parts that hadn't just been reduced to a charnel house nightmare. It was a great time to be in the city - finally a side of New Yorkers that the midwestern kid from sleepy St. Paul could relate to.

Every year since then, when the calendar turns over to September, and the remembrances and tributes marking the anniversary of that dark day start ramping up, New Yorkers are understandably right in the middle of things.  In fact, it's become sort of a rallying cry.  To the point where "Never Forget" is administered as a sort of test of one's patriotism.  Like a challenge coin that New Yorkers carry around in their pockets all year, but only pull out during the first half of September.  If you can respond by showing yours, you pass the test.  If not, you may be a terrorist, and you for sure don't respect and honor the dead, their families, and the still-suffering.  I don't really have a problem with that.  You go through that ordeal, you probably have a right to get worked up about it when the anniversary rolls around.

I do have a problem with the way New Yorkers act the rest of the year, though.  The average encounter with the average New Yorker from October through August is awful. They aren't just back to being tough, brusque city dwellers.  They've gone so far around the bend of entitlement and arrogance as to represent the depths of civilized society on a daily basis.  I saw a woman walking through the city, with headphones on, reading a book.  Like looking down at the book she was reading, while she was walking.  Just stop and think about the level of arrogance and entitlement one must attain in order to get to a place where that kind of behavior is acceptable.  She honestly thought she was the only person in the world.  That everyone else should have to get out of her way for no other reason than she was simply that important.  Fuck you.

It is offensive to me for New Yorkers who act like animals from October through August to then get all frothed up in righteous indignity over 9/11.  You act like you have completely forgotten 9/11 for 364, and then have the balls to yell at the world to Never Forget on the one other day?  You shame the memory of those who were lost.  You shame the struggles of those who lost.  You shame yourselves for taking a horrific, terrible thing, that became an opportunity to do something beautiful and really fight back against the agents of terror, and pissing all over it most of the time and making an absolute joke of it that one other day.

New Yorkers have forgotten "Never Forget", except for the worst possible time: when it's convenient for them.  That's disgusting.

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