Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Love That Demands Hatred

In her book Sarah Ahmed construct s hate and love – when used politically- as a very mutually dependent dichotomy. Ahmed also speaks about the sociality of pain, and how  although you can witness another’s pain, you cannot experience it. So while a painful event can be felt by a nation, it is not felt evenly across the nation. The footage we watched revolving around the September 11th terrorist attacks shows how this pain produce heterogeneous effects, and as a result responses which used the diction of hate, and of love. The telethon sought to emulate love for the idealized nation, and it’s heroes as a means to garner donations.
Many of the songs featured in the telethon appeal to love, indeed the first song featured is Stevie Wonder’s  “Love’s  in Need of Love Today”.  Ahmed notes that love often requires that the loved person or object return an idealized image to the lover - that the subject of the love reflects the qualities that the lover wants for himself.  Throughout this program there are many different idealized representations of the object of desire, taking the form of the many celebrities who host the show, and the stories of valor from the day of the attacks. Though the celebrities go unnamed throughout the program, for the majority of America they are immediately recognizable and since there is such a broad range of these figures that almost every American likely idolizes at least one of them.  Through this broad identification the love this program seeks to incite is cemented. Along with people already idealized by the public eye, there is the second prong of idealized action; many celebrities tell of soaring heroism from ordinary citizens, such as carrying a crippled person down eighty some odd flights of stairs to safety. While the celebrities go unnamed, as many of these stories as possible are attributed, and though the names recited are unfamiliar, they conjure the image of the ‘everyday hero’ – the bold actions that people like to imagine they would take had they been put in the same situation. One of the narrator’s even states explicitly “I am not a hero tonight” however these pop culture symbols serve as translators of heroism which work to convince the viewer that giving money is an act of love although the use of the money was never explicitly stated. This telethon also served to propel the huge identification of nationalism which followed the attacks, the toll free number was even 1-800-TO UNITE. Although most of the early songs chosen for the program focus on love the final two are explicitly patriotic: “America the Beautiful” and the American national anthem, but when you look back to the earlier song “Won’t Back Down” we see that this wound is not just the wound of the people directly effecte3d by the attack, or of NYC, but of the entire nation. The thing we ‘won’t back down’ from is also expanded and fetishized.
Peter Jenning’s interview with Larry Eagleburger displays the rhetoric of Hate being used parallel to that of love, and how they actually do have many similarities. Eagleburger says calls the attack “a declaration of war by terrorists in general at least that’s the way that we have to understand it” but then he continues “we have to hold those who have mothered, who have husbanded the terrorists at least as much responsible as the terrorists”. Already the expansion of culpability is apparent, but then he continues say that if it is Osama Bin Laden then the Afghani Government is as much to blame.  Ahmed states that “by aligning myself with some others, I am aligning myself against other others” (Ahmed, pg 52), Eagleburger’s interview echoes this statement. In the documentary “Why We Fight”by Eugene Jarecki an interview with a man who lost his son in the (/11 attacks shows the deep ties between love and hate he says “hopefully one day I can go to his grave and say I’ve done something in his memory” and then later “Y’know we haven’t caught Bin Laden but let’s do something. Who is responsible? You say Iraq? Let’s go in there and let’s kick the hell out of em” (Jarecki, 2005). This displays how love can act as a vehicle to fuel hate, and as Eagleburger says “we must make it clear to the rest of the world, that we will be somewhat irrational in our response”.  This attack was a singular, albeit earth shaking event for the United States and reminded the nation that it was not totally untouchable. In elevating the entire nations to the ‘enemy’ we created an archetype of the hated, as Ahmed says “The bodies of others are transformed into ‘the hated’ through a discourse of pain. They are assumed to ‘cause’ the injury to the… subject thus that their proximity is read as the origin of bad feeling”(Ahmed 43). Indeed this was crystalized at the outcry in 2010, nine years after the attack, when there were plans to construct a mosque near ground zero. This showed how the wounding group had been expanded to the Muslim faith, indeed how much of the nation attributed this faith as the motivation for the attack rather than the US’s ongoing military presence in the middle east, and how the scar of the wound had become fetishized.  Ahmed views fetishization with the wound as a form of forgetting, because it ignores the cause of the pain, the mosque was also intended as a community center for all people – a  place of acceptance and cultural exchange – obviously not the values which motivated the attacks of terrorists.

No comments: