Tell Me More had me on last week to talk about the top political stories of the decade. It went…ok. I wished I could’ve gotten another crack at some of the questions. Michele asked us which loss hit us hardest. As I’m thinking about it now, I realize that I lost two very close friends I thought would be around for the long haul. The first friend I lost at the beginning of the decade, not a week after the 9/11 attacks. One of my oldest friends, he sold weed to make ends meet in the poor working class town we grew up in. He was murdered in his home while defending his family. More than any other individual put paid to the myth that 9/11 changed ALL of our lives irrevocably.
(9/11 happened back when the Afrofuturist list was still vibrant. After the attacks, one of the list members asked what she could do to feel safe. I responded slightly tongue in cheek “move to somewhere black people live.” A white science fiction author–I believe it was Bruce Sterling but don’t get me to lying–delurked. I didn’t even know he was there. He went on this long spiel about how Al-Queda didn’t give a damn about black people and would kill black Americans as readily as white ones. I then asked him whether each discrete American building/city/space was equally in danger of being targeted by terrorists, and THEN whether the places that were more likely to be targeted were more likely to be populated largely by whites. I KNEW black people who barely escaped 9/11…but at the same time I knew that cities like East St. Louis, boroughs like the Bronx, weren’t in danger of terrorist attack. He never responded.)
The second friend I lost this past Labor Day weekend. A vice-president of a Detroit Benz dealership (the only one IN the city), he had a heart attack while at work. By the time his co-workers realized what happened it was already too late. His wife was a doctor, and while he was big, with a shot-putter’s build, he had a clean bill of health as far as I know. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi, so many of his fraternity brothers paid their respects they encircled the church three times. I still find it difficult to think too much about it without breaking down. He left behind his wife, and three children. He was two months away from 41.
I wish I had the presence of mind to mention them.
I also wish I had the presence of mind to be clearer about my critique of Bush. (As an aside THE most important political event of the last decade was Bush v. Gore. We’d be living in a VERY different place if Al Gore is President between 2001-2008. The economy would still have tanked, perhaps. But 9/11 wouldn’t have happened–recall that Rice ignored the Clinton administration’s warnings that terrorists planned to fly planes into American targets.) When asked what Americans could do in the post 9/11 moment, Bush said something to the effect of…”shop.”
The moment he missed there? I can’t think of a single statement that was more inappropriate given the moment. Because of our patriotic fervor–fervor that the Bush administration used to invade a country without cause, used to pass an act that gave US officials the right to spy on American citizens without cause–we would’ve supported almost anything at that moment. And what he suggested was that we…shop.