The changes the world experienced on 9/11 forced Jesse Mitchell to new levels of maturity and control.
There is the scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Hunter Thompson is sitting among the rumble of a drug-crazed nightmare, and he says, “If you look out the window and focus real hard you can almost see it…the high water mark of the sixties…where the wave crested and rolled away.” You can do that now, if you look hard enough, up the sides of buildings and things, mountains, signs, me, and you…everywhere. You can see the high water mark of the nineties. Where it hit, where it made its darkest, deepest marks. You see where our wave crested, but ours never rolled away, backward into apathy, frustration, and greed. Ours drained out suddenly. Exploded. Imploded. Sucked violently down the tubes. Gone.
There are several ways the world has outfoxed us, Americans, in the past few years. There are many objectives those two-dozen madmen achieved 10 years ago. It does us a disservice to deny the facts. They wanted to change the world, our world. And God knows, I will never see it the same way. I do not feel qualified to speak at length on what is better now and what is worse—what has been justified, what has been squandered—but I do know, with every bit of certainty, everything is different. This is not the world I was promised. For good or ill, I cannot say. I am no pundit, nor am I a fortuneteller.
I have sons, and I have daughters, and I love them dearly. It is now my task to raise them, and I find that I am increasingly under a unique burden: to raise my children to be just, ethical, and happy in a world that has drastically changed rules, priorities. I am raising my children to be successful and integrated into a life that no longer exists. I have no real way of telling my children where to put their trust, their effort, their time. The horizon is dark. That does not necessarily mean disaster, but it certainly means change, a new growth. A life that was without major incident, one of peace, stability, has not prepared us for these events, and perhaps no one is ever ready for times like this, but our future was meant—no, constructed—to be without further unbuckling or upheaval.
All this has forced a level of maturity and control upon me, which I do not believe I would have or could have embraced before these events. Not knowing the future of things, not knowing the direct stability of nearly every foundation, breeds cleverness and self-sufficiency. Not knowing the motivations or interests of those that surround puts me more in direct contact with my children’s lives. This is what the past 10 years have done for me—knocked me free and threw me out into the world.
The changes that have come, and continue to come, will reshape the world past even our present understandings. These days that we now inhabit are formative. It is our greatest duty to prepare the world behind us to be able to ride out the rising tides and suffocating depths and to take this new world by the reins and survive in it, excel in it. All else we do in vain.