She makes a point that troubled me this weekend, and she makes it very well:
If your child is musical
don't study piano
and if he's dying
stay off his turf
So begins a poem Charlotte Mayerson wrote after her son died of AIDS. Her book about losing him, The Death Cycle Machine, clarified the way I felt about a lot of things, but this most of all: Ownership of another's experience, and how violently opposed to it I am. Someone else's suffering is not yours, it's not for you, and while you can be profoundly changed by things that have happened to others, you can't forget who those things happened to.
I had to be slammed to the ground
A thousand times
Before I figured out
Whose tragedy it was
People said this stuff all the time, in the days following 9/11, and they're saying it again now, in the relentless waves of anniversary coverage. "This has reminded me of how short life is." Umm, okay? Great? For you? I'm sure every single dead person is grateful for the chance to give you a little psychic kick in the ass? "This has made me love my family more." "This has made me go back to church." "I'm going to learn more about the world now." Awesome! But wasn't it kind of a lot of pressure to put on New York, on its still-smoking skyline, to teach you a lesson?
Yes. This is what bothered me about the tenth anniversary of the slaughters. Yet the ownership of a tragedy is more mixed when the tragedy is a public event, televised over and over and over again.
I cannot tell where decency would draw the line but I am fairly sure that imaginary line was crossed too many times yesterday.