It's no longer 'over there'
Over There was a popular patriotic tune in the First World War, and it made reference to the fact that while 'we' were here, we would be sending troops to straighten out the mess in Europe. Within the memories of most, that was where war happened -- over there. Those of good heart will wring their hands at the plight of those in war zones, and we may even send soldiers, but we will send them 'over there.' On the other hand 'here', as we understood it, was always safe from hideous international conflict. Until 9/11 that was the case. With the exception of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, foreigners had never encroached on North American sovereinty within anybody's recall.
But, I was put in mind of the huge change that we are still emotionally adjusting to -- a change brought about with 9/11, with the recent arrests of terrorists in Britain; terrorists who seemed to be planning to blast thousands of innocent victims out of the skies in a series of acts that can only be described as murder of the most barbarous sort, and with the opening of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. I'm an emotional coward. This is not a film I want to see. I do want to assume an ostrich posture as much as possible. I do want to continue to pretend that it is still safe over here, and all the horrors are a world away. Anyway, I am no admirer of the oeuvre of Stone, a filmmaker whom I have always considered hyperbolic, deceitful, and sometimes downright lying in order to make his points. Points which are always heavily politicized. On the other hand, considering the source, Trade Center has been fairly well received critically. But, I still do not choose to see it.
I've mentioned before that when 9/11 happened I was thousands of miles away from 'anything', on the island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific. Only Antarctica would have been more remote. Raro, in the Cook Islands, is about 1500 miles from New Zealand, the only place of substance in the neighborhood. Otherwise, the only other centers can be found in French Polynesia, Fiji or Tonga -- hardly pivotal centers by any standard. Yet, when the incident happened, we were in immediate contact with it. A guy in a little shop called me to his computer and there on the screen was the famous image. It was thousands of miles away, and still right next door in my sensibilities. Electronics have killed 'over there.' We are all connected. We are all in the epicenter of anything that is happening.
"Well, when something like this happens, you couldn't be in a safer place," said Margaret, our charming Maori landlady on Raro, as she swept her arm wide to encase a world of a splendid lagoon, palm trees, jungled hills and anything pastoral and serene you could think of.
And all I could think was, Margaret, you dear soul, you are so wrong. Rarotonga is no longer remote. Nothing is remote. We are tied and we cannot genuinely get away. All we can do is make our psychological adjustments to a world that became alien -- in an instant. Everything happens in an instant now.
When l lived in Britain 25 years ago, we adjusted to IRA terrorist bombings. They were a fact of life, and the Brits simply went about their business, largely ignoring the terrorism that was on their doorstep. I got caught up in their attitude of pluck, and also accepted certain realities as a way of life. Likewise, the Brits tended to think that maybe America went over the top in its hysteria about 9/11. But, putting it into perspective, they are a people who lived through the Blitz, and those aforementioned IRA bombings.
They're probably right, but they will have to forgive the rest of us for having to adjust to the new reality. It will take some time. I know for me it will.