For the Faithful | By Eric Francis
Illustration: from Koyaanisqatsi
I HAVE NOT SHED A TEAR for 9-Eleven. At the time I was overwhelmed with the loss of a lover and my relationship with her child, a clear, exuberant boy of seven who spoke to me with his beauty, his clever reasoning and his uncontainable sense of humor, and a passionate, creative woman with whom I thought I could share my life. I don't cry that often but I cried for them, and along the way I learned something about what happened to me when my mother would get rid of the men in her life who meant far more to my brother and I than they possibly could have to her. I learned that her treatment of men, from my father onward, served to teach me that I was worthless, because I was going to be a man and men were disposable. I never thought of it that way till I experienced separating from my lover from the viewpoint of her son.
These issues dwarfed 9-Eleven in my life, though the war, the scandals around it, and functioning in my chosen role as information networker dominated my working life on many days. And astrology goes on. With my clients, the subject matter is far more personal than political. Horoscope columns are about the inner life we share. Running a business with a modicum of effectiveness takes a lot of devotion, love and drive. I had plenty to keep me busy and posted every interesting article I came across relating to the war to Planet Waves. Most of them were written in England.
From the beginning, I have experienced shock, outrage and fear about the events of one year ago. I have missed New York City terribly, and my friends in the Hudson Valley. I have listened to the stories of the relief workers and the people who knew those who lost their lives; and I heard from others who lost their way of life, these, usually for the better. I have experienced simmering rage at the agenda behind the whole excursion into death and devastation, which works out to just another excuse to wage war. I have been revolted by the media's putrid fascination with destruction that makes porn look like Monet. I have been outraged at the stupidity of people who failed to see that "terrorism" was being played totally to the advantage of oil men re-conquering oil country who had a little problem of an illegitimate presidency on their hands, a fact of history that was being papered over by God Bless America stickers, wrapped in flags and vindicating itself by bombing Afghanistan.
And now 9-Eleven will become a holiday, and, as we are setting the precedent today, will be celebrated as National Kill Someone Day. And though it would seem needless to say, there is a need. Murder is no way to honor the fallen. If this were truly a national day of mourning, we would demand an end to the ongoing massacres around the world that are supported by US tax dollars. We would acknowledge that 24,000 people died of starvation on September 11, 2001, just like they do every day. Maybe we would even do something about it.
Perhaps my anger betrays me, but I never fell for 9-Eleven. I never watched it on television news. I got snagged watching one two-second MPEG video clip of the south tower being hit some days after the fact, and saw nothing more until I chose to watch the Nextel special on the six-month anniversary. I have seen nothing on television since; there is no video feed into my home. I have observed how, once you leave the New York area, the whole thing is just more television.
I watched what my decades of journalistic training have taught me were cover story after cover story blow by and raise a haze that rivaled that of the dust over Manhattan Island on Sept. 12. I saw the collapse of the towers disguising the fact that Bush lost the election, then stole it, smirking all the while; I saw the devastation and shock being used to monger fear, racism and hatred, which was in turn preparing for long-anticipated Afghani oil pipeline profits that will pour billions into the coffers of Unocal and ExxonMobil; I witnessed, in the newspapers, anthrax popping up suddenly and creating panic, chaos and distraction, as well as the ever-important illusion of an enemy to support the bogus need for war; I fell in love with Danny Pearl and grieved his death, and knew that he, too was being used as a distraction and as war-bait; I witnessed a shell game being played with Enron, the "terrorist threat" and the alleged war against bin Laden, all covering up the Bush Knew story, an incredible revelation which has disappeared into the collective amnesia and denial that is the United States of America.
In March, I took a week off for my birthday to do some creative writing, on the eve of which I received the URL to the Find the Boeing web page from France, which, operating under the Emperor's New Clothes theory, points to the lack of an airplane or evidence of an airplane crash at the Pentagon. I had to grapple with how outrageous this prospect is, just like anyone else who would dare to entertain the thought. But I've had my illusions shattered too many times by corporate documents, deposition testimony and looking into the face of lying government officials for that thin veil of denial to last long. I dug into the story nonstop for a solid week, got to a point where I understood what was being done, and got out of it fast. One of the first journalists at the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, who saw no definitive evidence of an airplane crash that morning, encouraged me to pursue the story, but I decided that an astrological career was more in line with my life plans. But the Friday evening after I had put together the major elements of the essay Were It So, I felt more free than I have ever felt, spiritually free and ideologically free and just plain free.
Another layer of the façade fell off, only this time I glimpsed the core of the scandal. If this was not true, what else was not true?
But personally, deeper inside, my rage simmered hotter because I knew that we were being fooled, and fooled, and fooled. My own sense of reality did little, within my own inner space, to nullify the raging bullshit coming through the media. There were moments of relief, such as when I showed people the Pentagon photos and watched again and again as they said, you know, I was wondering where the airplane was, and yet I was continuously stunned that nobody in the mainstream press was asking the question. But I knew better than to think that, having reported this phantom airplane crash for so long, they could back up on the story or open the vile can of worms as to what actually did happen, both at the Pentagon and to Flight 77. I made one follow-up call and got a taste of what any journalist who broached the issue might be met with: a federal aviation official who called me at 5 a.m. Pacific Time (a bright and early 8 a.m. in D.C.) and, so incensed that he could barely speak, sounded like he was going to have an aneurysm at the mere suggestion that I thought the airplane wasn't there; he then hung up on me. That was when I decided to go back to Chiron for a while.
I listened to ludicrous radio reports of Special Forces "hunting in Afghanistan for bin Laden, cave by cave," and was horrified at the thought and sensation that the people there, shepherds and struggling farmers who treasure scraps of cloth, were being rained on with bombs in the name of peace and justice in the endless quest for petroleum profits. I cringed every time I heard the words "war on terror," as if it is possible to wage physical war on an emotion, and angry at editors for not having the sense and literary decency to at least say war on terrorism. Not that you can actually do that, either. But who the fuck cares, let's just do it anyway, and call it good.
FOR A LITTLE WHILE, particularly in the first hours and days, I had a feeling, a yearning, that I had forgotten entirely until I read Giovanna Coppola's essay from the I Was There series, in which she says, basically, that as the towers fell she felt a strange flare of euphoria that this is what would finally wake people up. Wake them up from what? From not caring, from not noticing, from not daring. From not dancing, from not taking action, from not loving, screaming and fucking like they mean it. Wake them up. Wake them up to what is behind the silence, to the sum total of all of what is not being said. Wake them up to the fact that we're all here together. But it was like waking up at midnight, having a few thoughts, and returning to sleep having forgotten that it happened.
Then, idealism and politics would fall aside and I would return to my astrological life, to my life of working with people through separations and heartbreaks, through career changes, though long-buried sexual abuse, through their parents' oppression and alcoholism and discussing their progress clearing out the garage and piecing together the long history of their Chiron transits. I would experience precisely what I came to astrology to experience: many very small, very meaningful awakenings. Then, hanging up the phone from my last client, I would re-enter the world of people who live for predictability, who worship inertia, pray to their leather car seats and appear dutifully at jobs that bore them to death. I longed for the community that I have envisioned so much of my life, and which I dreamed for a moment that 9-Eleven might help coalesce. I lived through my seemingly endless separation from my lover, attempted to have a relationship with someone who froze the moment passion entered the space between us, and finally began working with a Hakomi therapist and looking beneath all of it.
My emails to my former lover, and to my mother, became more honest as my clarity sharpened, driven by my quest for healing, driven by an urgent sense that it was time to live, that I could not wait for a moment longer to live, and that in order to live I had to be free of all the lies and pain that have kept me a prisoner of my own history. On my birthday this past March, I wrote one email from my heart, soul and guts and posted it to both of them, to the holographic effigy of the Betraying Woman, mother and lover, and to the real women who they were, and declared my independence, and then looked out my office window to the sight of two joyous rainbows blazing right over my small neighborhood, one reaching in a perfect arc from what seemed like one neighbor's house to another, and another, above it, out over Puget Sound, in an astonishing emotional and psychic threshold past my own sadness, depression and isolation. I live in that threshold now. I have not gone through it, but I coax myself every day. ++