The immigration slip asks me bluntly, in the best voulez-vous coucher avec moi style, if I intend on killing the President of the United States. The question after that demands that I “swear on my honor” that I didn’t participate in any genocide between 1939 and 1945, something easy to asses by simply glancing at the birthdate on my passport. Paranoid guardsmen bark “next!” and push us with their clubs towards the booths at the end of the line, their attitude strangely reminiscent of that displayed by soldiers during the aforementioned genocide. We make our way slowly towards the imaginary line that separates the state of New York from the rest of the world, and the date, hanging shiny and digital over the US Customs sign, seems strange, for a reason I can’t really grasp. Seconds later I get it, and I struggle hard to repress a scream of the Venezuelan version of “Eureka”: fuck. Why the hell did I travel here on the eve of September 11th.

 

Manhattan seems worn out, like an old lover trying to convince you to climb into her rickety bed. The city breathes heavily; its arms and legs have trouble moving. You can sense the economic crisis in the faces of the people on the street as well as the signs of “out of business” popping all around town. The financial sector, artificially buffed on speculation steroids, has wreaked havoc amongst the lower and middle classes of New York. Just like the myth of the modern slugger crumbled amidst doping scandals, the American dream awoke rudely to the realization that its idol had feet of clay, that its biceps were faker than the tits of a Venezuelan supermodel.

 

The 11th of September greets us with the propaganda machine in overdrive. Every TV, radio station or Internet page tries to emulate the suffering lived here ten years ago. In this regard, Americans are disappointingly predictable. The nation that brags about its capacity to invent and innovate contents itself with recycling the same worn-out communication tools used by every government in order to advance simple, one-sided explanations. From Los Angeles to Pyongyang -give or take a few lies-, every country concentrates its efforts in the creation of one-sided historical accounts full of pathos that exclude any analysis with the accusation of being “antipatriotic” or “manipulative”.

 

Because in the middle of the tragedy that saw thousands of civilians lose their lives, we perceive the farcical construction of an epic narrative that seeks to establish contemporary US history. Nothing the poet Virgil didn’t attempt when he built the foundation of Rome on the aftermath of the Trojan War by mimicing Homer in his Eniad. In the New York of 2011, the epic discourse is fundamentally semiotic, based on television images that create the backbone on which pundits elaborate. These pundits, rather than “analyze” anything, content themselves with cementing the narrative using the tools of simulation/repetition that Baudrillard studied decades ago.

 

In this sense, there is no better example of North America’s contradictions than the Ground zero memorial. Using the “compulsion of repetition of Thanatos” outlined by Freud in 1928, the media, and through them society as a whole, stubbornly repeats the traumatic event in order to mimic collective suffering. This compulsion rejects any analytic viewpoint; in fact, ten years after September 11th., the Occidental world has learned very little, apart from banning water on commercial flights and checking people’s shoes before they board a plane. The image of an aircraft crashing into a skyscraper tears down any attempt at understanding the consequences of two wars –one of them completely illegal-, such as the assault on civil rights embodied by the Patriot Act and on International law that is Guantanamo. Instead, elected representatives hang their heads and dedicate themselves to recycling Thanathos, or death, and they invite the whole country to participate in this totemic ritual, no questions asked.

 

Ten years after the heinous attacks, all the USA has to show is holes. In front of Obama and Bush lies the empty hole left by the Twin Towers, and this hole reminds us of the empty promises they never kept. But in front of the devastated population, excreted out of the productive system by a handful of rapacious investors into misery and unemployment, lies the biggest fiscal hole in this nation’s history. New York has multiplied it’s homeless exponentially. They are everywhere, pushing their measly belongings around in supermarket carts while the Washington fat cats worry about some obscure notation agency downgrading them to A++ instead of thinking about these people’s survival.

 

This is the sensation one gets from the Big Apple today. On one side, banks establish record profits and investors act like poker players who know the house is about to go bankrupt, trying to clean everybody out before the casino crashes. On the other, the middle and low classes inject themselves with the speedball of American contradictions: Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman vouch for an “abstinence only” sex education in schools, while on TV a rapper waves a golden chain in our faces and explains that he has slept with the whole nightclub, that he has more sex than we’d have in a hundred years. The population’s living standards crumble, while they’re invited to follow the adventures of Kim Kardashian’s ass, who drinks champagne on a beach in Bali or Goa and shrieks as the cameraman swoops in for a close-up of her derrière with a .50 wide-angle lens, as if he were a doctor about to practice an endoscope of her intestines.

 

Because the biggest contradiction isn’t that ten years after the September 11th attacks the only thing built in Ground zero is a memorial and a petty, mediocre fountain. The most humiliating thing isn’t how they play with suffering and death in order to build an untimely meditation about the divine destiny of the United States, like Kim Jong-Il does in North Korea. The saddest thing is North America’s pragmatic compulsion, the desire to always look forward without trying to understand how one got here. In this quest for growth and future the States have forgotten the people, the citizens. People don’t run this country. Wall Street runs it. Notation agencies do. The financial system does. And the most dangerous and disturbing thing isn’t that this country may soon decide to implode, it’s that, for the rest of the world, the collapse of the United States leaves us with Chinese totalitarianism and Iranian fundamentalism as the only options.

 

And that future is as nerve chilling as the hole in Ground zero.

(You can see all my photos of NYC here)

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