Tuesday, September 6, 2011

PRAGMATIC: Eulogy Overload

My theater company is studying eulogies through our current season: how we commemorate loss, why we tell stories of loss, and what purpose they serve in our society.

So it's pretty hard to avoid the oncoming commemorations surrounding 9/11. And there's a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot.

I'm having a hard time understanding what much of this is accomplishing. For instance -- Colin Powell is going to be an honorary Redskins captain for the NFL. Is that how a segment of our society is going to internalize the loss of thousands of their fellow man?

Governor Cuomo just unveiled the 9/11 remembrance flag. Are there other historical disasters that were commemorated as flags?

(A quick point about the 9/11 flag, btw; the Washington Post had an editorial asking whether 9/11 had become all about New York, and the flag includes the Pentagon, but only subtly -- a nod and a frame, but not with equal weight. Which maybe is appropriate, or maybe is not).

There's a lot of emotion to go through. And we express it in different ways. Sometimes it's suing to prevent the 9/11 Cross from being in the memorial. Sometimes it's building a new office tower. Sometimes it's literally turning the wreckage into a new weapon.

The best remembrances of 9/11, for me, are the ones that acknowledge the overwhelming mass of images, statements, and events. Take a look at NY Magazine's 9/11 Encyclopedia. Or the excellent blog Iconic Images' two part series on the famous photos from 9/11. (The first part was aptly named "The Day Of 1000 Iconic Photos").

To me, the best remembrances were the actual artifacts of the devastation. On the NRW downtown, passing by Cortlandt St. Station, where you could see a subway station no longer in service, still broken from the destruction that day. Fritz Koenig's The Sphere, a golden globe meant to symbolize how globalization brings the world together, and instead had massive holes kicked into it by the falling rubble.

Ten years later, and there's still more being said, more being created. 9/11 play festivals, the movies United 93 and World Trade Center, Steve Reich's new compositions, George W. Bush's National Geographic interview...

At the very least, on the actual day of the 10th anniversary, there will be no speeches:
Speaking on his weekly radio show Friday on WOR-AM, Bloomberg said the lawmakers will read short poems or quotes. No speeches will be given.

"This cannot be political," he said. "So that's why there's a poem or a quote or something that each of the readers will read. No speeches whatsoever. That's not an appropriate thing."
All of this frantic straining towards closure makes me wonder whether it will ever be possible for anyone to give that definitive statement or overarching memorial, or whether one will emerge out of this mass of response. Maybe Lincoln was right:
[W]e can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.