I don’t like this “never forget” business.
As if forgetting were possible.
Sounds like a desire for vengeance trussed up as memory and nationalism.
We don’t forget. Can’t.

I think this is more of what we forget – the stunning beauty of that view:

World Trade Center 1 in New York City

And how goddamn beautiful is that? I get a little high just looking at that clip, remembering what it was like to sit on those metal steps a hundred floors above the ground and look down between my feet through glass, to lean my head on the glass just lightly, to feel the cool of it against my skin as everything spun a little with vertigo. It was an amazing thing. I used to go there sometimes just to sit, right there in the clouds, higher than most birds even flew, like Jack on a concrete beanstalk.

What we forget is that we, as humans, are capable of doing things for the sheer fucking beauty of them, for the joy, for the accomplishment, for the divine, for the proof that despite what we believe, impossible things are possible. We do things to feel like we are the stuff of dreams, that we invent our own restrictions with fear and no magic. That observation deck was magic. It was hard to even feel like there was a building under you when you were up there because you couldn’t see any of the thing, like you were standing on a floor that was magically staying aloft. In a good wind the buildings would “sway back and forth up to 12 inches at the top.” So you really could move a foot in the air just standing up there.

Or, as John Dos Passos once wrote about New York City: “This city is full of people wanting inconceivable things. Look at it.” But they say no one reads him anymore. Well, they should. & Manhattan Transfer, where that quote is from, is a good enough place to start.

Remember the beauty, the aspiration, the dreamers, the sinners. That’s the stuff terror wants us to forget.

2 Replies to “#neverforget?”

  1. Thanks for this. And I loved the USA Trilogy — Dos Passos is unjustly forgotten; I far prefer him to Hemingway. The decline in his reputation may have been attributable, at least in part, to the fact that he turned into something of a right-wing crackpot in his later years.

  2. Absolutely beautifully put.

    I have young, so-called “radical” friends who sneer at American aspiration and all the good that has come from it (I don’t ignore our faults….one of our strengths is still being able to criticize those faults) and seem to ask me to unquestioningly accept any ideology that comes from “oppressed peoples”.

    Radicals (at least my generation) are tomorrow’s burnouts and greedy, wacky entrepreneurs.

    Dreamers like Dos Passos, Baldwin, Whitman, Wright always seem to show us the truth of possibility, even in the pain.

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