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This is probably as close as I’ll get to a post about 9/11

September 8, 2011

I’m not really very interested in revisiting the 9/11 attacks this weekend. I’ll be mostly staying away from television. The whole living in New York when it happened thing was about enough for me. That said, Susan Jacoby’s recent Washington Post piece, The sacralized myth of 9/11, is one you should read. Here’s a sample:

Hypocritical sacralization is really about ownership of a disaster, not about remembering and honoring those who died. This applies both to the furor over the proposal to build a Muslim community center a few blocks from the site and the attempt by one atheist group to prevent the aforementioned cross-shaped piece of metal from being displayed in the national 9/11 museum. Why not just put a plaque on the museum, for people who are presumably too stupid to remember the real, as opposed to the mythic, 9/11, which says, “People of all faiths and no faith died here.”

Another element in the process of mythicization is a bloviated exaggeration of the traumatic effects of 9/11 on those who experienced the event only vicariously. The farther you get from New York, which bore the brunt of the attacks and where most lives were lost, the more Americans seem to insist on their ownership of the insult to the national psyche. It is as if I were to claim that I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because, like millions in November 1963, I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on television.

James Coyne, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, published a fascinating critique last week of sociological and psychological studies suggesting that millions across the nation incurred post-traumatic stress disorder simply because they watched news coverage in the weeks after 9/11. What Coyne suggests is that “symptoms” such as “having difficulty falling asleep” and “not wanting to talk about the event” might not have been post-traumatic stress disorder but a perfectly normal response to events that created great uncertainty about the future.

Exactly. But, seriously, read the rest too.

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