Monday, September 11, 2006

Our Better Angels

Perhaps the best way to remember the attacks of September 11th today is to embrace the spirit of charity that best expresses our national will. See the website of One Day's Pay for ideas for volunteerism to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks on New York City and Washington D.C.

Another way to spend the day productively is to support historians who are reassembling the factual events, documents, digital ephemera, and the topography of the general cultural conversation about emergency preparedness and terrorism. Explore The September 11th Archive and The September 11th Digital Archive and consider contributing your own material for posterity. Like many people, it's still difficult for me to listen to the recently released 911 calls from that day, especially the call from Melissa Doi (pictured above).

I wouldn't recommend ABC's Path to 9/11, although I watched the first night of the broadcast, in the interests of media scholarship, because it is neither good drama nor good documentary re-enactment. The depictions of gender (with hysterical, narcissistic, or manipulative female policy makers) and race (with pidgin English speaking Arabs) were pointlessly offensive, and the visual rhetoric of jerky, fake hand-held verité of close cropped plotting faces on both sides made for a scrambled presentation from an avowedly politically biased filmmaker.

As though you didn't already see enough condensed xenophobia on the Planet of the Arabs montage, the website of The Path to 9/11 has a sickening clip called "How to Create a Riot" on its video menu. At least from it you can learn about the village in Morocco, Ouarzazate, that Hollywood relies upon to produce its cultural clichés and the three generations of extras who inhabit the place. Its history on celluloid apparently goes back to Lawrence of Arabia! This documentary by Ali Essafi tells you more.

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