I have dreaded today in the back of my mind for weeks, months even…
September 11, 2001 was one of the single most difficult days of my life, and admittedly I didn’t even have it all that bad compared to many. But as a Jersey resident working directly across the river from World Trade and frequent commuter into downtown Manhattan who’s soon-to-be wife and many friends worked and studied there as part of their daily routines the sudden jolt of watching everything unfold in front of me in real time was a lot to take in. The subsequent days, weeks, months, and even years that it took life to unfold back to a ‘new normal’ represented emotional and physical challenges I still cannot fully put into words all these years later
In an all too cliche way, NYC’s music scene captured this sentiment before it happened because in an all too real way, that’s what being a tri-stater has always been about:
These eyes have seen inhuman sights
I hold my breath with all my might
Like anyone else in our own hells
It seems obscene, the things I’ve seen
I hold my breath with all my might
These eyes have seen inhuman sights
– Biohazard, “These Eyes”
The sugar coated patriotism that has occurred on each anniversary of the event disgusts me.
We were a divided nation back then.
And this bullshit notion that we came together then, therefore need to continue to pretend to also come together again for one day a year bothers me almost as much as all the tortured memories of that day. I hate, hate, hate the misrepresentation of the moment and every year I get more fed up by the gaslighting as I become more and more aware of what recovery from the tragedy means to me.
For those of you who are more accustomed to some semblance of eloquence, I ask for your patience in advance as this post will certainly be an open meandering thoughsplatter and not a train on rails to a destination.
The dot-com boom-and-bust created an enormous schism in the economy between the haves and have nots that many of the underprivileged never recovered from during the subsequent economic expansion during the housing bubble. This was underscored by the reaction to the Y2K bug threat and dramatic differences in how different parts of the population were able to prepare.
Then there was the “recovery” from the Newt Gingrich lead scorched earth political landscape created out of a parallel anit-RINO movement of American Conservatism and the partisan politricking that turned the Whitewater Investigation into an infidelity scandal designed not just to discredit the Clintons but take down the Democratic Party.
Finally, there were still the lingering effects of social injustice that came to a head a decade before with the brutality inflicted on Rodney King by the LAPD and were resurfaced by the NYPD’s assault on Amadou Diallo and Philadelphia PD’s attack on Thomas Jones, as well as string of high profile LGBT assaults and murders that were mishandled by the police at a time when LBGT oppression was beginning to be challenged after a decade of draconian anti-LGBT laws were passed.
9-11 looked, from the perspective of red-white-and-blue tinted glasses, like the coming together of a nation struggling to deal with those turbulent, and long running issues. And, for a brief-and-fleeting moment it very well may have felt that way for many, if not most, Americans.
The reality though, is that didn’t last long.
We, as a diverse people naturally re-sorted ourselves into nice little niches once again and probably much more quickly than we are willing to admit.
Conservative ruralites quickly went back to hating on their liberal urban counterparts.
Whites quickly went back to hating on black and brown people, particularly those of non-Christian beliefs and North African, Middle-Eastern or Indian sub-continent ethnicities.
The wealthy quickly went back to hating on the homeless, jobless and downtrodden.
The national goodwill toward the Tri-State Metro of NYC/NN/CT and the DMV of DC/MD/NoVA quickly dissolved into partisan hackery in Congress where conservatives sought to bypass recovery funds to those liberal metro regions in order to pad the aid to annual southern and midwestern natural disaster events, and reallocate anti-terrorism funds to middle-of-nowhere mid-west and southern ruralities that could never be viable targets of international terror in the first place cutting off those desperately needed infrastructure funds to those urban economic centers.
Meanwhile, those empowered by this false sense of patriotism ignorantly attacked non-whites in vigilante fashion, including mistaking Sikhs and Jews for Muslims who, in their minds had become public enemy #1. Ethnic cultural centers and religious institutions, especially mosques, became targets not only for conservative hate groups by by the local and federal policing institutions. And, cancel culture became all the rage on the right in an attempt to relocate anyone or anything perceived to be Islamic or Middle Eastern, including stopping the construction of a long planned mosque in lower Manhattan led, in part, by a bunch of out-of-staters who had no real interest in New York itself.
The entirety of the war on terrorism was distilled down to stupid and predictable cliches that ignored the complexity of the region. Lies about terrorist outposts in Afghanistan covered up the reality that many of the terrorists were Saudi nationals trained through what were likely decades old US-fed anti-communism programs to counterbalance the USSR’s attempts at influence in the region after WWII. Lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq perpetuated the Bush family feud with Sadam Hussein.
And, the complexity of the situation over the subsequent years on became exacerbated by the continual funding a corrupt Saudi government, the collapse of Syria’s government into a multinational civil war, the authoritarian takeover of Turkey complicating their relationship as a NATO ally, Bibi’s hard right swing in authoring Israeli politics, the Arab Spring movement particularly in Egypt, the Russian reassertion of power after a nearly 20 year sabbatical due to the collapse of the USSR, and more. Much of which was misrepresented not just to the general US population but even within the intelligence community there appears to have been some whitewashing and gaslighting that blurred the approach and probably made bad situations worse while simultaneously padding too many contractors pockets.
Ultimately, out of this sense of “patriotism” came an Us-versus-Them mentality. The United States versus the Terrorists.
But who were the Americans?
Who were the Terrorists?
It wasn’t as easy to distinguish as what we might have been led to believe. How is it one minute someone with a US citizenship can be American and can hold a candle in unity mourning the loss of life and human innocence in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy but the next day because they happen to have a non-Christian belief, or live in a big city, or have a non-European heritage, they suddenly are less American and targets of vitriol and hate?
Ironically, compared to so-called mask mandates and mandatory vaccines in which faux-patriots fiend oppression, the actual liberty and freedoms stripped from everyone under the Patriot Act and a half dozen other regulatory controls put in place in the wake of 9-11 and twenty years later remain fixtures in our daily lives remain downright frightening yet all too often overlooked even by those most negatively affected by them. Citizens, in an attempt to protect themselves, ceded their identity and became, in principle, potential enemies of the state itself.
The paranoia that 9-11 fostered was WAY more effective in dividing us than the terrorist act was in unifying us but we were sold a bill of lies in the days, weeks, and months after that has become part of the collective conscious similar to the lies we tell ourselves about other aspects of American mythology like Christopher Columbus discovering America, the Pilgrims and Native Americans at the First Thanksgiving, Washington with rag-tag volunteers single handedly defeating the Red Coats, Honest Abe and the Golden Apple, and dozes of other tall tales and patriotic folklore barely rooted in reality.
I was here in New Jersey and experienced both the absolute best, and worst, of humanity in those first few years. I recall some of the most selfless acts of kindness among strangers coming together to overcome immeasurable odds. I recall some pretty awful moments as well, things its taken me years to come to terms with an become willing and able to talk about, including things that were said and done to be because of ignorant misconceptions by my own ‘neighbors’ in North Jersey at the time.
Twenty years later and as a nation we’ve literally learned nothing.
We’re still bickering about the same shit we were then.
There’s still aweful police brutality.
There’s still an enormous wealth inequaltiy.
There’s still outragous anti-LGBT sentiment.
There’s even more middle eastern xenophobia and islamophobia now than there had been then
There’s even an entirely new level of partisan politricking about Afghanistan, and Iraq, and a half dozen other countries in the Middle East that’s rooted in antagonistic domestic idealism instead of a wholistic understanding of the complexities of the region itself.
And, there’s still a bunch of facist-leaning murikkkanz that would just as soon let 9-11 happen again if it meant one fewer libtard for them to have to deal with, thus reinforcing 9-11 unity is just a lie we tell ourselves about what patriotism really means.
Truly breaks my heart as a survivor to experience how it has been commoditized. To see it coopted. To find it repackaged and remarketed.
I’m still not OK from having witnessed it. From dealing with the near misses and close encounters among family and friends. From living and working and going to school in and around the shadow of ground zero in the immediate aftermath and throughout the twenty years since constantly being triggered by the sights, sounds, smells and inexplainable ‘feelings’ that go with it. And, I’m not going to get any better by being gaslit about what that experience was by those who want to drape a flag over it and call it their own from a distance.
I honestly just want to crawl under the covers today and avoid the pom and circumstance that will surround the 20th anniversary because as a country we didn’t take the good parts of the aftermath of 9-11 and exemplify that as a foundation to rebuild upon so we could celebrate the achievement of lasting unity as a United States despite how much of the memoralizing will be positioned. No, instead, we allowed the ill aspects of that experience to fester creating two long, exhausting and fruitless wars, a deterioration of our civil liberties, a further fostering of our racist and xenophobic undertones, and a widening political divide built upon the perception that the other party is ironically less-American (whatever the fuck they each incorrectly defines being American in the first place.)
Forgive me if I sound jaded and unappreciative, but this is MY reality and I am NOT wrong for feeling this way. Two decades of bullshit surrounding 9-11 helped create this notion that makes me feel hurt, and angry, and fearful well beyond the original hurt, anger, and fear I initially experienced.
I’ll look back and recall fondly those few moments of coming together. The candle light vigils in the courtyard of the apartment complex I lived in. Seeing the original beams of light from a side road overlooking the meadowland’s swamp. Attending the delayed CMJ conference and working with the Firefighters across the street from one of the venues we were presenting at. Riding the PATH train through the Pit for the fist time when those tracks first reopened on the way to class.
But, I am now much more capable of also looking back and recalling those terrible moments of the United States tearing itself apart at the seams at the exact same time.
It is possible for an event to have two, or more, experiences attached to it and we would do well as a nation to allow the duality of what 9-11 was to exist in both being a shining example of what unity looked like to some while also concurrently being an absolute low point in division among our citizenry and within our humanity. Until we can come to terms with that notion we are not only lying to ourselves we are doing a disservice and injustice to those who lost their lives that day and over the course of the days, weeks, months and years since. We cannot continue to perpetuate the discontinuity of what it means to be American, and moreso what it means to be human, by treating 9-11 with a false sense of unity and fellowship when the reality was there definitely was not then and does not continue to be liberty and justice for all…
WFH WTF: The Covid Files, year two: Majorly Sticky Stuff
Apparently, Major League Baseball has a sticky stuff problem.
Not that they haven’t for years, but apparently it was really bad this year because the culmination of batting metrics, pitching metrics and final scores seemed to all be reflective of pitchers having the extreme upper hand. And, while pitching is intriguing to some fans, especially purists, it is hitting – because that’s what scores runs and runs win games – that more casual fans want to see and thus the league will always work to keep in balance.
Baseball isn’t unique in this manner. All the major North American sports benefit with casual fans when there’s scoring. While goal line stands are exciting if its your team doing it, generally the biggest highlights come from touchdowns, even the mundane ones, and not stalwart defenses causing quick 3-and-outs because they boring quick for the average fan. Goalie duels in hockey and soccer can be exciting, but fast paced games with highlight reel goals definitely attract more attention. Maybe that’s because the goalies might make dozens of saves in a game where there’s only a handful of goals in total, but scoring stands out. And, basketball is completely dominated by putting the ball in the basket, not that defense is optional, but of all the sports it definitely has the least emphasis, especially for fans.
So, it’s no wonder that with batting averages, on base percentages, runs batted in, home runs and final scores all essentially down that Major League Baseball was concerned. Sure the no-hitters were piling up and those make for some good headlines too, as do epic strike outs, the reality was the underlying metrics around spin rate and to a lesser degree pitch velocity and location showed something more than just pitchers have better “stuff.”
Unless, of course, by “stuff” you mean sticky stuff to help make the ball easier to grip and this control, thus more difficult to hit.
Over the years lots of substances have been used, legally, illegally and in odd grey areas to help give pitchers, ney all athletes, some kind of competitive edge. In this case tacking up the ball is no different than using performance enhancing drugs, or corking the bat, or having an illegal stick blade, or oversized gloves, or intentionally deflating the football … among the dozens of controversies over just the last generation of the games.
Leagues know these things exist and when it’s convenient to them they’ll turn a blind eye to most of it. It’s when the balance of power shifts too far that they step in. And, for the MLB it had gone too far.
Remember, they just dealt with a major cheating scandal from the Houston Astros and are still working in the shadow of the HGH scandal at the turn of the millennium (never mind the 90s steroids era) so the insinuation that there was mass rule breaking going on among the league’s pitching, to the point where even causal fans were noticing the game had changed meant the league had to act.
So now, of course, right on cue a bunch of self-righteous, extremely rich man-babies are going to throw temper tantrums about it.
Don’t get me wrong I love good pitching. I also generally don’t mind pitchers doing shady things to get an edge.
To this day, I still have no problem with Roger Clemens having been accused of using HGH in order to help ward off injury. His form was impecable and watching him throw “Mr. Splitty” where it broke down and in at the last second so that batters helplessly swung over it again, and again, and again was a thing of beauty because his delivery was so functionally on point. Yeah, no HGH probably would have meant a lot fewer innings each season, and fewer fastballs flirting at triple digits each night, because his recovery between would have been compromised so I get the advantage it had. Lots of guys were on it too, and when they went off of it their careers adjusted. And, rightly so, the advantage was gone and they had to go from the super human ability to get on the mount every four-to-five days for 7+ inning 100+ pitch counts (or whatever the average was between starts back then for top of the rotation pitchers) with their peak stuff in the high 90s to struggling to get into the mid 90s consistently through 6 innings on 80 pitches even on an extra days rest sometimes.
I don’t even necessarily have a lot of a problem with the lying about it prior to getting caught. Why tip your hand? I mean it’s morally and ethically shitty to cheat in general, and to lie in general, but the game itself has been predicated on this since early in the last century so to expect there to be some moral or ethical code to suddenly appear seems nieve. If the perception is everyone does it (and the reality is, I’d wager, that nearly every player has some rule breaking going on, consciously or not) why would you want to call attention to yourself.
It’s this notion of these pitchers taking offense to having to prove they aren’t cheating that drives me nuts.
As the old adage goes, nothing says you’re guilty more than denying it — and the way some of these guys are they look aweful guilty.
Honestly, I love Matt Scherzer. He’s a fun pitcher to watch toss because he’s got amazing form. If he was caught putting a little extra oomph on the ball I’d have way more respect for that then the histrionics he’s displayed about being called out for potentially having done it. Like, dude, seriously, if you weren’t cheating then you probably have nothing to hide so calm the death stares down and keep your pants on. Coming off an injury, he’s got the perfect excuse if it takes a couple of games to get used to throwing without the extra tack, so why turn it into a circus on the mound?
As for Gerrit Cole? Well, when he first came over to the Yankees all we heard about was how he was one of the hardest working pitches in baseball, studying film and using advanced metrics to really optimize his approach to pitching. As a stats nerd that was so intriguing and watching him tear through lineups exploiting batters weaknesses was fun, especially since the rest of the staff at times looked so inept. But to hear him cry now about how the ball is that much more difficult to throw because he cannot tack it up the way he wants takes away from all the technical know how we were lead to believe he was exploiting. If he seriously was that ‘smart’ of a pitcher how come he sounds like my kindergartner explaining himself now?
For both of these guys, and the dozen or so other pitchers whining in press conferences or giving glimpses of their jock straps, do you think this is building any empathy among fans? Do you think it’s making your fellow players, other than the rest of your cheating pitcher comrades, respect you any more?
It’s honestly only helping reinforce the league’s suspicion that you’ve been cheating lately.
It’s only helping reinforce the idea that some of you are paid too much, like excessively more than your talents actually deserve.
It’s only helping devalue the sport that has struggled with attendance on and off for the better part of the last few decades.
And, it’s not at all making you better pitchers by doing your worst abbot and costello impressions out there.
We get it. Pitching is more difficult without cheating. If it were easy then you wouldn’t have had to cheat to get ahead in the first place. No need to overstate the obvious.
The solution is probably multifold here. The league is going to have to come up with a universal allowed sticky substance similar to how it treats the rosin bag behind the mound and mud rub down balls generally receive for the game so that there’s a perception that no individual pitcher has an unfair advantage in access over any other pitcher, and that pitchers on the whole don’t have an unfair advantage over batters, etc. And the league is going to have to come up with some way of enforcement that doesn’t unnecessarily slow the game down, and doesn’t put umps in awkward positions with enforcement, and doesn’t embarrass the frail egos of pitches when they are being checked out.
What the specifics of all that looks like is beyond my pay-grade and something for the league, the MLB-PA, and the umpires association to come together on agreements. But, whatever compromise they come to has got to be better than watching something that looks more like a suffocating fish flopping around out of water the way some of these pitchers acting right now.
Hows, the old saying go? There’s no crying in baseball.
There’s also no comedy in it unless you are Will Craig or Bill Buckner or even the venerable Babe Ruth’s failed steal in 1926.
Seriously, can you imagine if batters accused to juicing dropped their pants on the field so that everyone could see there were no needle marks in their asses?
Hopefully the goofiness will end soon and we can get back to playing baseball because these aren’t the clips I want my little t-ball players to watch and think they should emulate – little kids already have a hard time keeping their pants on without supposed adults showing them it’s ok to just drop trou anywhere.
What I’ve been listening to
The Buzzcocks, Green Day, the Clash, the Ramones, Bad Religion and H2O. Was looking for something melodic and leaning pop while still having just enough punk grit to make me want to circle pit at my desk from time to time. Must be the weather – 70s with a light breeze.
What I ate
Drank. Somewhere in the Covid Files I started to explain that I was no longer purchasing Kentucky Bourbon which was my go-to daily sipping type of whiskey. It’s a bit of a break from my family’s more Scotch-style whiskey tradition that I partake in much less these days (price and availability have a lot to do with it, but I still indulge in a good scotch from time to time). Anyway, throughout the pandemic I’ve been buying New York whiskey almost exclusively (occasionally something from bordering states makes it in) not just to support the local craft distillery scene but also to stick it to Kentucky because of the aweful representatives they keep sending to Congress.
The most interesting drinking days are always the end-of-the-bottle days ones because it’s a sip or two of everything so I get to compare them side-by-side instead of just having my usual glass or two of a single drink. I don’t think I’ve talked about any of these in prior lists so hopefully these are new to the conversation then:
Beanball Bourbon from Cooperstown Distillery in Cooperstown – actually, slightly disappointing in that it has a lot of bite to it so it feels like a less mellow and cheaper bourbon than it is while the sweetness one expects from bourbon is way in the back and almost forgetable even though the rest of the flavor profile is quite good. And, since I needed to drink after all the insanity happening in baseball the baseball name was what initially caught my attention.
Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Current Spirits in Elmsford – locals for me which makes it especially notable, I might have written about the Straight Rye before which is also quite nice too, this has everything I want from a bourbon style whiskey including a bit of a sweet kick at the end. In today’s tasting it was the perfect middle sip.
Adirondack High Rye Bourbon from Springbrook Farms in Springbrook – as good as any of the other high ryes I’ve drank albeit a bit more expensive than what I pay for Redemption or High West when I can get them.