Arts & Culture

This American Life Ira Glass Manfatuation Post: Ten Years In

Ira Glass and crew do their own version of a 9/11 commemorative show. Read More

By / September 16, 2011
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This week’s episode of This American Life begins with a blast of humanism right off the bat, with that tall, dark hunk o’ burning Jew Ira leveling with us, through the radio waves, making us feel like he’s speaking with us directly.  “Maybe you don’t want to hear another “ten years after 9/11” news story (this is paraphrase, as Ira opts to use the word deluge.)  He follows this up by checking in with a woman who escaped from the towers, who feels just as we do: exasperated with disaster and all the stories about it.  She admits to feeling relieved when Sept. 12 comes along.  “If these commemorative news stories aren’t for you, then who are they for?” Ira asks the survivor.

“I don’t know,” she says.

Cue, the plucky high pitched confusion music which is only broken by Ira’s sweet, heart-warming voice, promising us, the listener, not to dwell on the 9/11 itself but to look at where we’ve come since.  It almost feels as though Ira Glass is going to make 9/11 all better.

We check in with Haider, a young man who was living in the states during 9/11, his father the owner of a hip hop clothing store.  However, Haider’s father had lived in Afghanistan before moving the states and helped to fight against the Soviets during his time there.  Haider’s father is connected within the Afghan political world, and Hamid Karzai is a friend.

When we hear about Heider’s transformation after 9/11, from an American kid with modest dreams, attending a community college and considering becoming a stock broker, to a Yale graduate living in Afghanistan who runs and NGO and flirts with the idea of a future as the leader/savior of the country, well, it’s something else.  This is most certainly not your typical 9/11 story, as if such a thing exists.  Haider’s heart, it seems is directly wired-in to his homeland, enough so that he was willing to choose Afghanistan over a former fiancé.  However, after years of living there, still dreaming, but no longer modestly, Haider begins to wonder if he can achieve his goals, without become the kind of person he’s fighting against?  Where do we see this?  In talking about Karzai, Haider equates him to Henry the 8th, corrupt as a result of weakness rather than greed.  A James Frey rather than a Stephen Glass, an Omar from The Wire rather an Avon from The Wire.

In Act II, we meet a woman who lost her husband in the attacks, and as a result, she finds herself a political socialite of sorts, against her will.  The powers that be know that the best way to heal the wounds of grief is to attend lots of fancy gala’s.  At one such gala, she finds herself seated at the table with Donald Rumsfeld who eventually asks to hear her thoughts in the war in the Middle East.  Hearing her response to Mr. Rumsfeld, it reminds me of that story about the Jet Blue flight attendant who told off a plane full of passengers, scored a beer and then slid to freedom, only times a million.  “I think you used my husband’s death to invade a country we have no business being in.”  Just typing those words gives me boo-yah goosebumps.   Every human should have at least one moment like this.

In Act III we catch back up the guy who attacked his fiancé during a bout of PTSD.  His very memorable story told of him paying homeless people to buy him groceries so that he wouldn’t have to interact with people.  He admits that he seems himself one day being and old crazy person mowing his lawn in his camo.  Afterwards we meet a family who moved to Norway after 9/11.  Not everyone knows that Norway is basically the most benevolent, serene place on this planet.  Well, that is up until a few weeks ago when a right wing nut went on a killing spree, and this family of Iraqi’s worried that a Muslim perpetrated the crime.  They were relieved to find out that this wasn’t the case, but the kind of hysteria they feared was ever present in the final Act of this week’s show.  Chloe, a young Muslim girl living in the US, is relentlessly picked on after 9/11.

9/11 gave one person an Ivy League education and an ambitious, yet tense, future, and another a dead husband, and a boo-ya moment.  But for most, 9/11 brought a lot of sadness, the worst kind of sadness, the kind that’s not so easily understood.  So, the deluge of 9/11 stories came and went, and maybe it was a bit annoying, but for those of us who weren’t completely destroyed by the attacks, maybe it’s not such a big deal to spend a day remembering.