THE WORLD CHANGED FOREVER
This issue marks the one-year anniversary of the terrible events of September 11, 2001--a day, that like Pearl Harbor Day, will forever "live in infamy." Of course, 9/11 still lives with us in other ways, as well. It lives on in our hearts and minds as a daily reminder of how quickly and indelibly the lives of an entire nation's people can be turned around in one single, shocking millisecond. One year later, it is clear: America as we know it changed forever on that one dark day. Humpty Dumpty, as it were, will never be back together again.
No longer do boy bands and warmed-over greatest hits compilations for 70's-era metal bands top the charts. Since 9/11, the sense of gleeful innocence that made that music relevant to our people has vanished. We are now gloomier, more thoughtful, and have been forced to seek in our entertainments more depth and spiritual meaning. Celebrity biographies and self-help books are giving way to histories and classic literature. Our movies are less violent, and our television shows more probing and topical as we Americans increasingly demand a better understanding of the world around us.
Before 9/11, our culture could have been described as a dreary, endless cycle of sales and consumption. Our pre-attack lives were dominated by the daily exposure to thousands of commercial messages and by seemingly unshakeable worries about our health, our appearance, and our overall consumer profiles: what kinds of cars we drove, what sneakers we wore, how big a television occupied our living rooms. Before we came together as a nation and learned to appreciate each other as people, many of us were plagued by profound feelings of unworthiness that had been inspired by media messages. We worried whether our teeth were white enough, our stomachs flat enough, our hairlines in place, our deodorant strong enough to get us through the day. Popular magazines asked to consider whether or not we were satisfying our partners in bed, or even if we ourselves were really satisfied. And when we looked into the eyes of our loved ones, we were often met by the same critical glare that we had learned to train upon ourselves.
Our political lives were equally empty. Before the attacks, we had reached a point where we were accepting as leaders a series of third-rate shysters, human haircuts in suits, who baldly campaigned for their own interests while we lazily looked on with only the vague attention of disinterested spectators. Indeed, most of us typically felt far more involved watching a Sunday football game than we did watching our politicians debate each other.
That changed after 9/11, when the specter of death and violence awoke us to the necessity of taking a more active role in our lives. Now we talk about things more. We're not just on the sidelines.
Here at the BEAST, we remember tuning in to our televisions with mouths agape on that fateful day last September and realizing, as we watched that towers fall, how wrong we had been to think that history had ended somehow. Before 9/11, we were like most Americans, so content with the present that we seldom saw the need to seek out new stimulus in the future. Like most people, we cheered as Madonna sang "American Pie and groups like Smash Mouth brought a modern feel to old-time favorites like "I'm a Believer." For new fashions we alternated between 70's chic and 80's retro, getting a kick out of each new twist to the old fads.
Those innocent days are gone now. For the first time in a long time, the past feels like the past. We are in a new world since 9/11, and it no longer makes sense to listen to cover tunes and chuckle over afros and bell bottoms. Hollywood, realizing the change, has stopped making features out of old sitcoms and cartoons. Our new world has a new aesthetic and we are making our way, like it or not, into the future. There is a new look and a new sound in the air. It is frightening to some, but it is here, and we are sorting it out together.
There was a time, before 9/11, when few of us thought to wonder about life at all. We went from day-to-day mainly concerned with vulgar worries about bills and with vague plans to buy a bigger house a few years down the road, or maybe put a pool in the back yard. In our focus on our careers and on the achievement of a narrow kind of sarcophagal domestic comfort the entire direction of our American lives suggested a lengthy and surprisingly dull preparation for the most painless possible death. The attacks changed all of that. Watching the towers fall, we realized that life is fleeting, and the wisdom of the heavens inscrutable. No longer sure of tomorrow, we found ourselves in a mad dash to find true meaning in our lives before the end. We found that meaning in a shaking off of our indolent past, and in the embrace of each other and the future. We are stronger now. Different. Better.