Ever since 9/11, on the dates marking years that have passed (note to other journos, don’t call it a freaking anniversary), Americans have reprised the cult they started that day. In the days and weeks after 9/11, the cult reached full strength. But every September 11th, Americans bring it back for a day.
The members of this informal, subconscious cult all say the same thing to each other, the same way, in a specific formula. As if in a trance, they repeat the magic words to each other like it’s a spell, “Do you remember where you were on 9/11? I remember where I was on 9/11.”
And then the dialoguers share their stories: where they were, who they were with, what they were doing, how they found out what happened, what they thought (ever hear this yarn: I hoped it was an accident, then I listened to the second plane had hit and known it was a deliberate terrorist attack?), and how they’ll never forget any of it.
Take the time to notice sometime on September 11th, in your social circle in real life and online, the almost hypnotic lure this conversation has on people and how they relish participating in it.
It’s a cult of people participating in a mass social ritual to nullify a historical event that rejected them as a psychic event. On September 10th, Americans were blissfully soaring into the 21st century, each alone in their narcissistic world of fancy, everyone a hero in their movie, the central character, with the rest of you all as supporting cast.
But the terrorist attacks in Sept 2001 disturbed that inward-facing bubble of subjectivity and interiority. It woke or should have woken Americans up to external reality and the externalities of their complacency about their government’s activities overseas after eight years of Clinton, four of Bush, and eight of Reagan.
Instead, the ego reasserts itself through this ritual surrounding 9/11. “Yes, I’m still real. I still exist,” the ego reassures itself in the annihilating wake of 9/11’s blow to its sense of security. “I still exist,” the ego comforts itself, “I remember where I was on 9/11.”
Never mind all the three thousand people who died. Never manage all their tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of friends and family members who were affected by losing them and by their loss. Please leave it to Americans to make something like that about themselves every year on the day it happened.
The psychological epidemic of narcissism writ large across so many conversations about 9/11 explains the dysfunctional state of U.S. politics, the allure of its broken adversarial partisan system, and the completely unhinged, feckless policies and power grabs by its ruling elite.
And while such as this clamor over each other amid the ruins of the swamps, turning Americans against each other in their relentless march for power, the divided Americans each comfort themselves with the brag that they remember where they were on 9/11.