I think we can say with a high degree of confidence that the loss of innocence to one degree or another has been the collateral damage for all of us following 9-11. Maybe innocent is not the word that would spring to mind when those around the globe would think to describe the US. But I’m thinking of all the people who left their homes to go to work on that morning in September thinking that as on any other average day, they would return.
In my mind, as I read Amy Waldman’s book, this brutal tearing away of innocence was illustrated through her characters over and over again. We are no longer the Norman Rockwell nation of the four freedoms if we include being tucked in bed with the freedom from fear. This is now a world where a garden isn’t just a garden, hijabs are torn from women’s heads, and even Claire who led the charge for Mo’s design trips up against the complications of that truth in this new world of fear.
Mo grew up believing and living a life as any privileged American young man with great expectations of achievement and the assumption that the constructs of the country we live in “has our back”. Only such a blind spot of innocence would have enabled him to presume he could submit a memorial design judged on its merit alone, irrespective of his new post 9-11 self. Could that pre 9-11 Khan imagine that his design could unleash the spiral of events that would lead to Asma’s stabbing? Is this where we assess guilt and innocence? Or should we lay this at the feet of the media (“The press! They killed her!”) ? Alyssa, making her way as a young scrappy journalist, is telling the story, or any story just to keep her job. Did she have the least idea of what power she had to change the course of lives?
An image that I felt very compelling near the end of the book describes men in prayer (p318) – “rears hoisted in the air and their socked soles exposed had made him wince for their dignity…” the ultimate submission.
Being a child who grew up in the 50’s I can remember being in a similar position in elementary school, under our desks, we all were covering our heads in a futile position against a potential nuclear attack. How innocent we were, and now as we submit to the indignities of travel, peeling off clothing, exposing bare feet and submitting to crucifix style xrays believing this too will keep us safe.
~Jeanne Grubb, Donor Relations Officer
Kalamazoo Community Foundation