03 May 2006

 

Flight 93

This isn't a movie review. It's a meditation on whether to see a movie.

The movie? Flight 93, the documentary-style dramatization of the 9/11 events that culminated, supposedly (I believe it did), with the hijacked passengers trying to force their way into the cockpit and prevent the terrorists from taking out the White House or Capitol. The story is one of the heroism of the ordinary, of citizens understanding that they could fight back.

I have nothing but love and admiration for what those people did. I think their story should be told, and in a way, I'm glad it's being told. Glad that some may be recentered about the very real threats against our lives of that day and of now. I hope each and every one of us is so bold, so right, that if we were in the same situation we would respond similarly, do what is necessary, whatever is necessary.

But....

I've never seen the videos of World Trade Centers collapse. I've seen still photos from 9/11, but I refused at the time to watch the videos -- the endlessly repeating video -- of the towers coming down. My imagination is perfectly fine to grasp the idea of 3,000+ people coming to their deaths in less than an hour through acts of will on the part of 2, 4, 19, 20 terrorists (the number doesn't matter -- the willfulness does). I don't want that imagination corrupted by seeing the reality.

And I'm not sure I want my imaginings about Flight 93 to be corupted by seeing someone else's imaginings.

So, I am not sure I have the heart to see Flight 93, as much as I appreciate the reality and the story. It's not that it's "too soon:" It's that I have my own story about that day, a day that matters to me. I don't want to take a chance on someone else messing it up for me.

Describing life under totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt wrote about "the banality of evil." In my mind, one way evil becomes banal, as opposed to shit-your-pants frighteningly extraordinary, is by putting it forward constantly. I'm not talking about video-game violence: I believe such an overwhelming fraction of kids know the difference between reality and fantasy that I don't worry about the moral implications of teenagers playing too many first-person shooters. But I'd rather not have a world where skyscrapers are brought down by religious nuts with regularity, or where you or I would expect to expect that. Or where we watch it happen with rapt attention.

Sometimes, it's okay to close your eyes and see what really happened.

I know that each and every one of us is likely capable of such atrocities and of the corresponding heroism response, but I'm glad that the overwheming majority of us manage to stay on the side of the line saying, "No thanks, I don't think I'll kill 3000 people today. Or start planning for it." If the day should come where someone else crosses that line, I'd hope to be like the passengers on Flight 93.

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