The Buzz, 9-15: The Usurpers... & the Saviors
Whose New York is it Anyway?
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2006 The Dance Insider
It's appropriate to ask 'What's the dance relevance?' of the following commentary, and I'm happy to explain: 1) New York is the center of our world, too. 2) When our government failed to protect us from attack and then, failed to inform us it was not yet safe to go back to work, it affected dancers and other dance professionals living in New York too.
So: I'm angry, first of all, that Mr. Bush, in his Gotham fly-by earlier this week, attempted to usurp New York. I'm angry that he thinks he can prove sympathy by laying a wreath just when we've had it confirmed that his government told our people (including downtown dancers) it was safe to go back to work when his government knew it wasn't. I'm angry that he usurped what even confirmed Lefty doves like me agreed were worthy causes -- hunting down bin Laden in Afghanistan, overthrowing the Taliban -- to get young men and women to put their bodies on the line, and then sent them to Iraq to fight for an old grudge and his corporate allies. (This isn't me saying this -- this is some of those soldiers themselves saying this.) I'm angry he's usurped the word patriotism, a word which at its root is selfless, to serve his own selfish means; I'm angry that I can't look at a flag anymore without seeing his agenda, which has so desecrated it. I'm angry that he's usurped -- or maybe exploited is the better word here -- our fears to promise that only he can protect us, when it was his government that ignored the pre-9/11 memos, his government that ignored the Katrina flood warnings. (13 reasons to vote Democrat this fall: "Bin laden determined to attack inside US" and "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job.") (I'm also angry -- no, frightened -- that because my e-mail of this column earlier this week was sent from abroad, he may have read it, and because I'm not 'with him' I'll be seen as not with us.)
On Friday, we re-posted Veronica Dittman's eloquent letter from New York in the days just after, as well as links to Darrah Carr's report from Ground Zero and some of our other coverage. You'll note that I did not include links to any of my own lengthy verbiage of the time. Part of my hesitation was that in retrospect, my own commentary seems naive, ostentatious, and, well, verbose. But part of it was that some of my first words quoted the September 12, 2001 headline from the leading Paris journal Le Monde, "Nous sommes tous Americains," We are All Americans. We had so much good will September 12. Everyone was on our side. And I can't bear to think of how we squandered it. (Let alone how the president squandered our misplaced trust in and support of him in the days immediately following 9/11.)
Bringing it back home to dance, and extracting a thin thread of optimism: As an American living abroad, I can tell you that thanks to you -- the culture-makers -- indeed that it is only because of you, the makers of American culture -- music, dance, theater, cinema -- that there is any good will at all left for the U.S. abroad. (They may hate our policies, but they still love Humphrey Bogart... and Deborah Hay. And they love jazz.) While I'm not so naive as I was five years ago as to say simply "Light is the answer to Darkness" and that is enough, I think, I think, that you who answer nihilism with creation are our only hope, and you have to keep it up. We are in a very very dark forest right now; without you, we are lost forever.