“One of the duties of the artist – not the only duty, but a central one – is to impel people to imagine the complexity of thought and feeling inside another person.”
Long-time Good Men Project contributor Steve Almond has a post in The Rumpus, with interwoven snippets of 9/11 through the eyes of an artist, a storyteller, a propogandist and a celestial being. Here is an excerpt:
Say you took the long view of September 11, 2001, the view from the heavens, the view of a compassionate celestial being. From up there, you’d see that approximately 150,000 earthlings died that day. Most of these deaths were caused by malnutrition and age-related illnesses, roughly 1500 were murders, hundreds more were due to civil wars. Also, 2,977 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington.
A lot of human beings died, that’s my point. They all left behind mourners.
Imagine the mother who watched her child die of hunger. Here’s this tiny person, a daughter. She has a name, a face. She doesn’t explode or fall from a skyscraper. She simply stops breathing. No cameras record her final moment, the lamentation of that mother. These images are not replayed on the television over and over and over. What would be the point of that?
One of the duties of the artist – not the only duty, but a central one – is to impel people to imagine the complexity of thought and feeling inside another person. Art complicates moral action, because we have to accept that other people matter, that their hardship and suffering, even their rage and sorrow, are, to some extent, our responsibility.
Propaganda has the opposite aim: it is intended to simplify moral action. People get to disregard the humanity of others. This makes them easier to ignore, deport, imprison, torture, enslave, and kill.
The story of 9/11, the grand fiction we constructed as a culture in the days and months and years afterward, ran something like this:
A band of religious psychopaths, acting without rational motive, murdered the innocence of a proud and blameless nation. Slowly, heroically, that brave nation dug out from the rubble and exacted revenge.
It was a story bled dry of doubt or nuance, a piece of propaganda. It divided the world along the fault-line of the zealot. America had been wronged and therefore could do no wrong.
Read the whole article in The Rumpus here.
Image: “A small tribute to all of those lost in 9/11” by Todd Riddle.
Painting on display at the Olga Guanabara gallery in Brooklyn, as one of a series of 40 paintings by the artist.