September 03, 2003

Reflections on a Cold Grey Morning

THERE ARE ONLY A FEW SELECT THINGS I would describe as being particularly constant in my life, but certainly the weather is among them. It is a cold, grey morning here in Manchester, and the temperatures are hovering in the high 50s if I had to guess, and it's one of those days when you'd rather stay in bed than do anything else. It is patently miserable weather, fitting after this miserable summer. It serves as a reminder that Manchester, so beautiful in the fall, will eventually again turn into Pyongyang-on-the-Merrimack; and in two months, maybe more, the ice and snow will come.

Soon, now -- in just eight days -- the second anniversary of the worst day in this nation's recent memory will come. Now no mention of that date can go without noting Michele's work over at A Small Victory to remember and record what happened on that horrible day. But my focus today is something a bit different: namely, the reaction we've seen to reports that the major broadcasters only plan to cover the anniversary in their own news coverage, and will not have any special programming devoted to the attacks themselves. This news has outraged Rachel Lucas and appalled Sheila O'Malley. And since I think those two are pretty good barometers, I would say that a lot of other people are angry too.

As for me, I suppose I'm feeling a bit gloomy about Sept. 11.

One part of me knows very well that it's a day that will never be the same for any American, whether one living now or one born thirty years hence. For those future Americans, I suppose the gravity of just what happened will never really hit -- kind of how those of us not alive during Pearl Harbor will never fully understand the horror of that day back in 1941. So that part of me wants very much to do all we can to remember what happened that day, to keep that memory alive.

Another part of me, however, wants to focus much more on the never again aspect of Sept. 11 as opposed to the never forget. In my heart, I must admit that I still want a lot of trampling out the vintage. I want a lot of terrible swift swords to fall upon those bastards who would plunder our economy, ravage our country, burn our cities and take the lives of our people. It is not that I have necessarily had an epiphany, or that I've seen the coming of the Lord; I just want to ensure that those who would do us harm are speedily dispatched to face Him. I do not particularly care how it is done: I simply want those scum thrown down to the ground. And I don't want them to get back up.

So what will this mean in terms of how the day plays out in our national conscience? Hell if I know. I just hope the stories about our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq get a lot of play on the nightly news, and I just hope that the combination of the day and the hour will spur reflection on why we've done what we've done. And I think in both cases, that will happen.

Because I don't buy the whole monolithic media argument -- the idea that what the nation sees and hears is decided by a handful of executives in some smoky back room. I am sorry, but I don't. And I daresay that if you took a random three reporters from the print media, and a random three from the radio stations, and a random three from broadcast and from the new media, and you locked them all in the same room, they couldn't decide on what to have for breakfast, much less plan a coordinated media assault.

Now, I will admit that, at nine in the morning on this cold grey day in Manchester, I am writing in a vacuum; I don't have access into all the newsrooms of America. But I will say that I expect the cable networks to make the day very focused on Sept. 11; and that the newspapers will treat the day with gravity; and that the yammering on the radio might just get toned down a bit. The idea that The Media Does Not Want the Public to Remember Sept. 11 is not only based on false premises, it is flat-out wrong. Flat out wrong.

And if all goes as I think it will, I think on Sept. 11, 2003, we'll see a combination of coverage looking at what happened on that day in 2001, and what has happened since. There will be a lot related to trampling out the vintage. But there will also be much more related to the healing of the nations.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at September 3, 2003 09:37 AM | TrackBack