September 11, 2002

Jingoism Safari

Hey everyone! I think I know most of you at least in passing. For those of you I don't, I'm chiming in from Yale University up in Connecticut, USA, about 1 1/2 hours from NYC.

So, it's September 10th, and a bad week all around for any thinking American. The newspapers and especially the competing tv networks are all abuzz with graphic, gripping pseudo-coverage of the one year anniversary. It's emotional sweeps week here with everyone trying to out do each other. A few days ago the First Lady urged the nation's parents to keep their children away from the television tomorrow, rather than putting them through that trauma again. I find myself wondering why just the children? Why shouldn't all Americans be kept away from the television tomorrow?

I'm tempted to set up a page on my other blog called, "Jingoism Safari", capturing particularly offensive bits of Americana spawned by the upcoming date, but I know full well how ill advised a move that would be. There's an ugly strain of blindingly intolerant patriotism throughout the country just now, and it doesn't pay to criticize.

But if I *did* start the page it would begin with this scene from the suburbs. My local Dunkin' Donuts (a huge chain throughout the Northeast, think the MacDonalds of donuts) brought in an "artist" to paint uber-patriotic scenes on their glass windows in honor of the 11th. By way of background, they tend to decorate the windows for major holidays, marketing seasons etc. Bright, cheerful lobsters drinking insanely large iced coffees (Coffee Coolattas, their specialty) on the beach were erased to make way two particularly searing images. The first is harmless, but confusing -- a happy firefighter looking like a Lego version of the psychiatrist in "Happiness". Seems like a strange artistic choice to me, but what do I know. The second is so deeply kitsch my back teeth hurt just looking at it -- a large, proud bald eagle stands in front of an American flag, but it's his incredibly oversized tear that dominates the image. Majestically depicted within his tear are the twin towers. The only problem is, at first glance they disturbingly resemble twin oversized Coffee Coolattas.

I counter this false experience with something I find more real, more tangible. Last week, waiting in line to get my own Sunday morning donuts I notice two firefighters in full gear picking up breakfast in front of me. When they reach into their pockets to pay, a blond woman next to them reaches in with $20 to cover their bill. They thank her profusely for her simple, surprise gesture, and I despite myself I'm moved. I think I'll keep my tv off tomorrow, and keep that image in my head instead.

posted on September 11, 2002 at 02:16 AM by michelew.