The Target on my Back
My apartment is a block away from the explosion on 23rd Street.
Here’s the thing. On the morning of September 12, 2001, I put on my shirt and noticed that there was a target on the back. I changed my shirt. Much to my surprise, all of my clothes had targets on the back of them. And I hadn’t realized they had been there all along.
It’s part of the privilege I wear in this life — as an over-educated white person (who inherited incredible bone-structure) living the dream in Manhattan. Yes, it’s true, I’ve worked and sacrificed to make that happen. But the fact of the matter is, in this world filled with inequality and injustice — I am privileged. I am so privileged in fact, I can view the towers not as a symbol of American domination of monopoly capitalism. I used them as my southern compass point, to balance the beauty of my Northern Empire State Compass point. I have the privilege of being kinda so-so about the towers’ architectural design. My privilege as a New Yorker extends to the point that I am a bit offended when everyone gets all patriotic on 9–11. That’s what got us into this mess. It happened to my town. But I see. I get it. My town stands for America out in the world. Yet another situation I participate in, contrary to my own choices in the matter…
It reminds me of the Christmas I spent with my Canadian girlfriend’s family. During dinner, her father kept lobbing verbal taunts and bombs about Regan and the United States. They were the sort of stuff plastered all over the walls back home in the East Village. It took me a while to realize these were aimed at me. He had “lumped” me. Lumped me in with the rest of America. As if I had come to his home wrapped in the American flag!
But I did. I just didn’t know it.
So these Wall Street guys — they’re not my guys. I’m not on their side. Am I? I marched with OCCUPY. The thing is — from the cockpit of a plane heading into the World Trade Center, I am.
So, how did these targets get here? I would like to sit down and unstitch them all. Is it “foreign terrorists”? Oh. I get it. There are quite a few really nutty guys who hate us and want to kill us. Why would they come here and do that? What is it that we’ve done that would make this make sense for them? What as Americans? Now, I’m pretty sure we wear our privilege at a particularly irritating and rakish tilt, but these cripplingly insecure men who have contorted Islam in order to protect their prehistoric sexual identities cannot win. Are those the guys who put this target on my back? Like that creepy cab driver who kept proposing marriage to me and locked the doors when I tried to leave. Those silly guys? Well — I do see where I might scare the B-jessus outta them. That whole, “Women need men like a fish needs a bicycle” thing just blows their minds.
How do I fight this? Don’t give up my power. Enjoy my privileges. Feel and celebrate my Liberty. My independence. My equality. My sexual freedom. My love of life which cannot be stopped. That’s how to combat those scared, frantic, desperate, mistaken MiddleEastern men who see American influence as ruining everything they value. But that thing of being so threatened you would distort your own peaceful spiritual philosophy to control the women in your society — — we ought to be able to understand that impulse,… what the result of that looks like… It reminds me of us! And we don’t need foreigners to come here and terrorize us. We do that all on own better than anyone else. We home grow them.
People who try to scare us through terrorist actions, whether they come from outside our country or from inside the neighborhood, make me think of others who are not so privileged. The girl who wants to go to school who is not being taught to read. The young woman who has suffered female circumcision. The woman who has to go through with a pregnancy against her will. Whenever I have been without money or power — when I think of those with the privileges I lack, I hope that they would use them. Enjoy them. So when I find myself on the other side of the equation, the solution is not to relinquish this privilege — but to share it. Share the ease that can be found in living. To stop the worry and anxiety of the future. To abandon the depression and regret of the past. To share the –**?*** — of the present moment. The truth of it, I guess! Whether it be sad, or hilarious, or simple or hopelessly complicated. But to fully inhabit life. As it is. Target and all.
It takes more bravery to really listen and try to grasp someone else’s truth. After the towers fell, if we might have asked why and listened and not “lumped.” And worked to make life bearable for all of us, instead of being so intent on revenge and retaliation; we wouldn’t all be sitting here in matching shirts.
Check your back. But do NOT let it scare you. That would undo you. Ask why — find out why there’s a target on your back and you will discover the seed, the hard center that is the war kernel. If we could rid ourselves of it, we might all live in peace.