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Anil Dash



A Blog About Making Culture



Updated: 2017-09-11T13:23:26Z

 



Sixteen is Letting Go Again

2017-09-11T13:23:26Z

A couple of times a week, I end up walking by the World Trade Center, either the new train station at the site, or one... A couple of times a week, I end up walking by the World Trade Center, either the new train station at the site, or one of the new malls that's sprung up flanking the memorial. It's a normal part of my day now, not a tentative and fraught moment that forces me to catch my breath. It's just part of my day. And people are just suspicious of me in public places, like the airport or any place that's got a metal detector. Even if I still resent it, I've stopped wishing it would stop. It's just a normal part of my day, even when it angers me. So, like ten years ago, I'm letting go. Trying not to project my feelings onto this anniversary, just quietly remembering that morning and how it felt. My son asked me a couple of months ago, "I heard there waa another World Trade Center before this one?" and I had to find a version of the story that I could share with him. In this telling, losing those towers was unimaginably sad and showed that there are incredibly hurtful people in the world, but there are still so many good people, and they can make wonderful things together. It's an oversimplification, of course, but not a false one. I'm trying to let go and accept that that only stories we'll ever have of that day will be our flawed, incomplete perspectives. But at least we can push back against the myth-making by people who never saw the character of New York City firsthand on that day. In Past Years Each year I write about the attacks on this anniversary, as a means of recording for myself where I am compared to that day. I don't think I'm saying much that's profound or original, but it's a ritual that's helped me fit those events into my life. Last year, Fifteen is the Past: I don’t dismiss or deny that so much has gone so wrong in the response and the reaction that our culture has had since the attacks, but I will not forget or diminish the pure openheartedness I witnessed that day. And I will not let the cynicism or paranoia of others draw me in to join them. What I’ve realized, simply, is that 9/11 is in the past now. Two years ago, Fourteen is Remembering: For the first time, I clearly felt like I had put the attacks firmly in the past. They have loosened their grip on me. I don't avoid going downtown, or take circuitous routes to avoid seeing where the towers once stood. I can even imagine deliberately visiting the area to see the new train station. In 2014, Thirteen is Understanding: There's no part of that day that one should ever have to explain to a child, but I realized for the first time this year that, when the time comes, I'll be ready. Enough time has passed that I could recite the facts, without simply dissolving into a puddle of my own unresolved questions. I look back at past years, at my own observances of this anniversary, and see how I veered from crushingly sad to fiercely angry to tentatively optimistic, and in each of those moments I was living in one part of what I felt. Maybe I'm ready to see this thing in a bigger picture, or at least from a perspective outside of just myself. From 2013, Twelve is Trying: I thought in 2001 that some beautiful things could come out of that worst of days, and sure enough, that optimism has often been rewarded. There are boundless examples of kindness and generosity in the worst of circumstances that justify the hope I had for people's basic decency back then, even if initially my hope was based only on faith and not fact. But there is also fatigue. The inevitable fading of outrage and emotional devastation into an overworked rhetorical reference point leaves me exhausted. The decay of a brief, profound moment of unity and reflection into a cheap device to be used to prop up arguments about the ordinary, the everyday and the mundane makes me weary. I'm tired from the effort to protect the fragile memory of something horrific and hopeful that taught me about people at their very best and at their very, very [...]



The bar is so damn low.

2017-08-23T04:24:26Z

It's always great to reconnect with old friends, and that especially holds true for old Internet friends. That must be why it was such a...

It's always great to reconnect with old friends, and that especially holds true for old Internet friends. That must be why it was such a delight to spend some time chatting with Ana Marie Cox, as a guest on "With Friends Like These".

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(And, as we reference in this show, this is my 2014 piece on why I stopped retweeting men.)

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The Importance Of Interaction

2017-08-23T04:09:19Z

Developer relations and tech evangelism is one of those fields that just doesn't get enough respect. Having done the work for years myself, I think...

Developer relations and tech evangelism is one of those fields that just doesn't get enough respect. Having done the work for years myself, I think it's a wildly under-examined field and very few businesses do enough to properly invest in this critical part of the tech ecosystem.

That's why it was a real thrill to get to guest on the Community Pulse show, discussing exactly these topics. I hope you'll give it a look.

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We're just trying to be non-terrible!

2017-08-23T03:39:21Z

This was so fun! I got another chance to host the Stack Overflow podcast, and this time did it in fine style with Jess Lee...

This was so fun! I got another chance to host the Stack Overflow podcast, and this time did it in fine style with Jess Lee and Ben Halpern of the Practical Dev joining in for the festivities. Do give it a listen!

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Dig, If U Will...

2017-08-23T03:27:20Z

I was delighted to get to talk to Ben Greenman for an episode of "Dig If You Will The Podcast," his series in honor of...

I was delighted to get to talk to Ben Greenman for an episode of "Dig If You Will The Podcast," his series in honor of his book "Dig If You Will The Picture". We go deep into Prince's influence on transforming the music industry, and if you like it, you should check out Ben's book, too.

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Oh, and of course, we talk about my favorite floppy of all time — the disc Prince sent out with a custom font when he changed his name to his famous unpronounceable symbol.

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Tech and the Fake Market tactic

2017-03-29T02:59:12Z

In one generation, the Internet went from opening up new free markets to creating a series of Fake Markets that exploit society, without most media... In one generation, the Internet went from opening up new free markets to creating a series of Fake Markets that exploit society, without most media or politicians even noticing. 1. The open internet markets American culture loves to use the ideal of competitive free markets as the solution to all kinds of social problems. Though the vaunted Free Market has no incentives to, say, take care of babies with cancer, a well-functioning market can definitely be a great way to see which provider offers the cheapest price for a roll of toilet paper or a bushel of apples. Given that cultural predilection, some of the first things people made in the early days of the web were new markets. Perhaps the canonical example was eBay; anybody (well, almost anybody) could list their ceramic figurines for sale on eBay and participate in a relatively fair market. On one side, a gaggle of figurine aficionados, enthusiastically searching for the best deals. On the other, a bunch of figurine vendors, competing on price, quality and service. In the middle, a neutral market that just helps connect buyers and sellers through instantly updated information. Everybody’s happy! Later, a seller could buy preferred positioning for their products in eBay’s search results, and some product categories started to be dominated by wholesale suppliers, but it still remained a relatively open system. Everybody’s mostly happy! Not long after eBay started, Google launched, as a sort of market of content, with its PageRank system choosing which pages show up in our search results, ranked by the number of inbound links. On one side were readers, and on the other side we had publishers, and in between was Google using a mysterious but still kind of comprehensible algorithm to create a market where almost everybody felt like they could participate. But before long, those rankings started to be tainted by spammers, due to the fact that higher ranking in those listings suddenly had monetary value, and making spam links was cheaper than paying for Google’s advertising products. What was an open market to do? 2. The rise of rigged markets The inevitable automated gaming of the early open digital markets inadvertently catalyzed the start of the next era: rigged markets. Google got concerned about nefarious search engine optimization tricks, and kept changing their algorithm, meaning that pretty soon the only web publishers that could thrive were those who could afford to keep tweaking their technology to keep up in this new arms race. After just a few years, this became a rich-get-richer economy, and incentivized every smaller publisher to standardize on one of a few publishing tools in order to keep up with Google’s demands. Only the biggest content providers could afford to build their own tools while simultaneously following the demands of Google’s ever-changing algorithm. The problem inevitably became most pronounced in the most valuable markets. Eventually, in lucrative vertical markets like travel, Google started showing its own flight booking tools ahead of the third-party results from travel booking sites, based on the idea that their experience was better for consumers than the confusing and inconsistent results from third parties. This was true, but it was also pretty damn convenient for Google, which now started to make more money on those links. This was the start of a subtle but critically important pattern on the web: A short-term improvement in user experience helped a single dominant tech company to take over a legacy market in the long term. Amazon went through a similar process, when it started putting its thumb on the scale, showing its own products first when doing a product search, even if they weren’t th[...]



It's time to discover Prince

2017-03-29T02:32:24Z

With the return of Prince’s classic 80s and 90s catalog to the most popular streaming services, now’s a great time to (re?)discover the breadth of... With the return of Prince’s classic 80s and 90s catalog to the most popular streaming services, now’s a great time to (re?)discover the breadth of Prince’s incredible body of work. The full scale of Prince’s music is probably too much for any unfamiliar listener to just dive into; he released nearly 40 albums under his own name(s), regularly enhanced his single releases with extended versions, remixes that could sometimes comprise an entire EP on their own, and legendary B-sides that were often as strong as the single being released to radio. That’s not even counting the literally hundreds of songs he wrote (and often performed on) for others. So, here’s an easier way to dive into his catalog, broken down by the type of listener you are, and what genres of music you prefer. I’m assuming little to no familiarity with Prince’s catalog here, beyond staples like the song Purple Rain. The nice thing about Prince’s work is that there are no bad starting points; if you don’t like what you hear at first, he almost certainly made a song in the complete opposite style as well. The basics If you’ve never really listened to Prince’s work, there’s a reason his 80s albums are revered. They hold up favorably against the very best albums in pop music. Purple Rain (1984) Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | Tidal It really is that good. Half the songs on the album became hit singles, and the other half would have except they were too sexy. 1999 (1982) Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | Tidal This one will surprise you. Though Purple Rain has more, bigger hits, this is the album that shaped the sound of 80s radio. And, well, a lot of the Top 40 to this day. The songs really stretch out, and this is the album that turned a lot of casual Prince fans into diehards. Sign O’ The Times (1987) Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | Tidal If you want to hear Prince at his experimental best, this is almost every hardcore Prince fan’s favorite album. width="300" height="380" src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify%3Auser%3Aanildash%3Aplaylist%3A3XvSGxgkq6eurtTma7rYAO" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> The greatest hits There are a number of Greatest Hits collections for Prince’s work. None of them are terrible, but all of them ignore the second half of his career which, while uneven, still had dozens of truly great songs. Ultimate (2006) Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | Tidal The best overall collection of Prince’s work, this includes a number of his best b-sides and extended versions, amply demonstrating why those non-album tracks were essential to understanding his range. And if you like big hits like Little Red Corvette, it shows up here in the full 8-and-a-half-minute glory of its 12" Dance Mix. The Hits/The B-Sides (1993) Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | Tidal The first compilation of Prince’s work is still the only one to collect a large number of his b-side recordings. Even if you’ve heard most of his 80s albums, there are almost certainly songs here that you missed. Specially-crafted starting points I made a number of playlists that are specifically aimed at people who feel like they’ve never really gotten Prince. I often hear people say, “I know he’s supposed to be super talented, but I never saw him live, and I don’t know what song of his I would love.” This is especially poignant for those of us who were fans because his live shows were amazing, often radically recasting his recorded material, and because his hit pop singles, while brilliant and unique, often didn’t resemble the more obscure works that won us over. These playlists are necessarily in[...]



It's me, Bike Dad!

2017-02-02T20:53:52Z

Until the Citibike bikeshare program launched here in New York City, I'd ridden a bike perhaps once in the prior twenty years. Since it launched,...

Until the Citibike bikeshare program launched here in New York City, I'd ridden a bike perhaps once in the prior twenty years. Since it launched, I ride almost daily.

Because of the massive improvements in quality of life in the city as walkability and cycling affordances were improved, I've become a strong advocate for commuting by bike, and I was excited to talk about my experiences with NY1.

While the Full NY1 series on new commuting trends is unfortunately still a little slanted toward favoring privately-owned, under-utilized automobiles, I think the tide is turning overall because, as I've noted before, our investment in making New York City accessible and safe for pedestrians and bikers has made this the golden era for public space in the entire 400-year history of the city.

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Design Matters

2017-02-02T20:45:14Z

I was delighted to get to speak with Debbie Millman for her venerable podcast, "Design Matters". If you have an hour to spare, please do...

I was delighted to get to speak with Debbie Millman for her venerable podcast, "Design Matters". If you have an hour to spare, please do check out the conversation — we touched on a ton of topics that are near and dear to my heart.

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On Being and Tech's Moral Reckoning

2017-01-15T20:18:05Z

Back in November, I got to sit down with the amazing Krista Tippett for a lengthy interview in front of an incredibly warm crowd in...

Back in November, I got to sit down with the amazing Krista Tippett for a lengthy interview in front of an incredibly warm crowd in Easton, MD. Now, that interview has been edited down and is available as the latest episode of Krista's hugely popular show, On Being.
I hope you'll take a listen — we cover the contemporary tech industry, the social impact of the major social networks, and even the bigger reckoning with how tech is changing our families and or kids and our relationships. I'm really proud of how this came out, and can't wait to hear what you think. And, of course, if you're interested in more on the topic, you can check out my Humane Tech series on Medium.

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If you are interested, there's also a full, 90-minute unedited version of the conversation. With Krista and her team coming from Minneapolis, the Prince mentions you might expect from me are in the uncut version.

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I'm at Fog Creek. And we're introducing Gomix!

2016-12-06T14:14:45Z

Okay, here’s the story: I’m the new CEO of Fog Creek Software! And we have an awesome new tool called Gomix that just launched today,... Okay, here’s the story: I’m the new CEO of Fog Creek Software! And we have an awesome new tool called Gomix that just launched today, and you should go try it out and build the app of your dreams in a few minutes. Want to know more? Okay, there’s more. If you know me, you might be familiar with Fog Creek Software. Cofounded by Joel Spolsky and Michael Pryor in 2000, it’s one of the most venerable and respected software companies in the world. I’ve known it from its earliest days, as both a customer and a fan, and have gotten to watch excitedly as they launched hugely influential tools like Trello (which Michael is now CEO of as an independent company) and Stack Overflow (also independent, and headed up by Joel as CEO). Fog Creek’s flagship product FogBugz has long been the best tool for helping teams make great software — I know because we used to use it to make Movable Type and TypePad back when I was helping get those products off the ground a decade ago. Built on Values But Fog Creek is a lot more to me than just a company that’s made a bunch of hugely popular applications. What first resonated for me was reading Joel’s words in his seminal posts on tech culture, like the Joel Test. Though some of the references to old Windows software are a little bit dated now, the insights in Joel’s writing are so essential and timeless that they’ve become part of the canon that almost every developer is expected to read. And what I found in these seminal documents of Fog Creek’s culture were a few simple statements of values that could be easily summarized: Workers matter, deeply. The things they create, the environment they work in, and the ideas they imagine are worth protecting, respecting and honoring. Technology and software are better when they’re accessible to more people. We need to build tools, platforms and organizations that prioritize the thoughtful dissemination of technical information, to stop coding from being an exclusionary priesthood for a small few. We can build our values into our software. We aspire to having a point of view and to being thoughtful, and we can build tools that encourage other creations of technology to do the same. What I found was that I had a chance not just to work with some of the most talented people in the world, but to do so in an environment that was actively countering the worst excesses and abuses of the tech industry. It’s no secret that I’ve become increasingly critical of the conventional tech world’s lack of focus on ethics, humanity, and inclusion. But at a personal level, I realized I couldn’t in good conscience just criticize from afar. If the best way to criticize software is to make software, then the best way to criticize tech companies is to make a better tech company. And it turns out that one already exists. Even more fortunate, its brilliant and thoughtful founders Michael and Joel were willing to trust me to be the CEO of the company that have so carefully shepherded all these years. And frankly, after challenges like shutting down ThinkUp earlier this year, I started reckoning a bit with how to be most effective in pushing the tech industry to be a little more thoughtful. This personal inflection point became clearer as the team at Activate released this year's Activate Outlook — seven years after we'd set out to create the leading strategy consulting company, I realized we'd not just succeeded, but done so to the degree where the team could now run effectively without me being involved day-to-day. Between stepping back to an advisory ro[...]



Forget “Why?”, it’s time to get to work.

2016-12-06T14:27:45Z

There are going to be endless think-pieces and armchair analyses about why America elected Donald Trump as its next President. But you already know why.... There are going to be endless think-pieces and armchair analyses about why America elected Donald Trump as its next President. But you already know why. Don’t waste a single moment listening to the hand-wringing of the pundit class about Why This Happened, or people on TV talking about What This Means. The most important thing is that we focus on the work that needs to be done now. While so many have been doing what it takes to protect the marginalized and to make society more just, we must increase our urgency on those efforts, even while we grieve over this formidable defeat. It is completely understandable, and completely human, to be depressed, demoralized or overwhelmed by the enormity of this broad embrace of hateful rhetoric and divisive policy. These are battles that have always taken decades to fight, and progress has never been smooth and steady — we’ve always faced devastating setbacks. If you need to take time to mourn, then do. But it’s imperative that we use our anger, our despair, our disbelief to fuel an intense, focused and effective campaign to protect and support the marginalized. And it has to start now. There are concrete steps we can take immediately, which can set up habits that we can sustain for the years of struggle to come. 1. Show up, in your community. Whether it’s issues like marriage equality, fighting climate change, or welcoming refugees and other immigrants, much of the progress we see starts at the local level, in our neighborhoods and cities and states. We’ll need to support and grow the organizations doing the work, and commit our time and energy to helping them accomplish their goals — simply donating our money will not be enough. There are a few key things to remember: Organizations fighting for civil rights and social justice already exist in your community. Take the time, now, to research who is providing for essentials like food and water security, education, shelter, legal representation, and policy advocacy on behalf of people at risk. Commit to showing up to help. We all have an overwhelming number of obligations to our lives, our families, our friends and to our work and careers. It’s hard to give up the one night a week we might spend hanging out, watching Netflix, but if that’s the night of the City Council meeting, or when your local elected official has a public hearing, it’s time to show up. Building real, sustainable infrastructure to protect those in need is a job that can’t only be done virtually, or remotely. We’ve got to show up. Start fundraising, now. Once you’ve found the organizations doing the work in your community, commit what resources you can to supporting them, and begin helping them come up with ways to be sustainable over the long term. Local businesses are going to be key to providing necessary resources (whether that’s in-kind offerings or simply funding) and the time to capture their good intentions is right now while they’re still feeling the full weight of Trump’s win. If companies in your community say they want to do the right thing, give them the chance to. 2. Make stopping Trump a regular habit. There are a few key steps we’ll all need to follow to prevent the gradual acceptance of Trump’s extreme and dangerous rhetoric. Fight normalization in media. We’ll start to see the morning shows doing fluffy profiles of Melania and Ivanka almost immediately, along with “humanizing” articles and profiles of Trump following closely behind. These will be [...]



How do we reform tech?

2017-03-29T03:08:59Z

In the past, popular movements have forced major industries to confront their need for ethical reform. But today‘s media, policymakers and activists don’t yet seem... In the past, popular movements have forced major industries to confront their need for ethical reform. But today‘s media, policymakers and activists don’t yet seem prepared to fix the tech sector’s problems. So how will reform happen? First things first: Why does tech need to be reformed? The short answer is, tech is changing everyone’s lives, but while there are many benefits of today’s tech that we love, there are significant new economic and social risks that tech companies are introducing to society. When tech companies make decisions that affect our lives, we don’t have any way to appeal those decisions, or to meaningfully effect change. That’s a situation ripe for reform. As President Obama phrased it: [A] capitalism shaped by the few and unaccountable to the many is a threat to all. The single biggest threat to the long-term health and growth of the tech sector is the backlash that could be caused by tech’s worst abuses and excesses. Which issues matter most? Let’s look at three key issues that have the broadest negative impact on the widest range of people: Most major tech companies are deeply exclusionary. There’s been a tremendous amount of conversation about the systematic exclusion of women/people of color within tech companies, especially when it comes to career advancement, compensation, funding and equity. Yet despite all the talk, precious little measurable progress has been made. This disparity has reached the point of crisis, and worse, this systematic underrepresentation has helped cause the following two major issues. Tech is increasing economic insecurity for many. In addition to the familiar “robots taking our jobs” concerns amongst industrial workers, new tech startups are often predicated on destabilizing fields that aren’t traditionally thought of as being at risk. Worse, these new “disruptors” often rely on entering new markets using methods that are illegal or unethical. Since many jobs are no longer protected by labor organizations or unions, workers are often ill equipped to defend against attacks from extremely well-funded tech companies which ignore regulations. Tech is enabling widespread public surveillance and threatening privacy. People across the political spectrum have deep-seated and well-considered objections to widespread government surveillance. But few technology companies have acknowledged or addressed their complicity in designing systems that helped enable such surveillance. Worse, many companies (particularly those reliant on advertising) misuse the massive amounts of personal data they gather from users, making corporate surveillance as objectionable as government surveillance. Trading personal privacy for “free” online services is increasingly seeming like a bad deal. To summarize these three points: Tech companies are making people worry about their jobs and feel creeped out, without offering the chance to benefit and profit from tech success. That doesn’t mean people hate consumer technology like smartphones and apps — we love them! But the fact that we are investing enormous amounts of time and money in using these products makes it more likely that people will resent when those companies betray their trust. Is it too late? It’s important to acknowledge another perspective, people who do believe tech has overstepped its bounds, but who think it’s too late, and that the forces behind today’s tech companies are too powerful[...]



It's more than just "teach kids to code"

2016-09-23T13:05:40Z

I’m skeptical about “teach the kids to code!” as a panacea for all of society’s ills. Yet today, I’m at the White House to participate... I’m skeptical about “teach the kids to code!” as a panacea for all of society’s ills. Yet today, I’m at the White House to participate in a summit on Computer Science for All. Why would a skeptic still think it’s important to make computer science part of everyone’s education? .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/M9xy8muYC5Q' frameborder='0' allowfullscreen> It’s almost impossible to overstate the breadth of cultural enthusiasm for the idea of teaching kids about computer science and computing. No matter where they sit on the political spectrum, leaders will proudly tout America’s high tech companies as the future of innovation and high tech companies as the future of opportunity and employment. Tech has become something of a secular religion in America, and as a result there’s been a rush toward enthusiastically advocating for technology education, without as much substantive and nuanced critique as the idea deserves. The Myth of Perfect Tech Jobs As someone who’s been making software and Internet technologies for 20 years, I’m skeptical about the enthusiasm that so many in the policy-making world have for saying, “let’s teach kids to code!” To start with the obvious elephant in the room, many of the people advocating for these programs aren’t particularly knowledgeable about technology, or the economics of today’s tech startups, in the first place. (Most people making policy haven’t yet realized that there is no “technology industry”.) And most of the technologists advocating for these programs aren’t particularly literate in how today’s educational systems work, or what constraints they face. But my skepticism starts at a lot more fundamental level than the literacy gap between policy, tech and education. Even though I do know how to code and I do love technology, I am intimately aware of the weaknesses of many of the signature companies that define tech culture, and those are the biggest concerns we need to address. Many tech companies are still terrible at inclusion in their hiring, a weakness which is even more unacceptable given the diversity of the younger generations we’re educating today. Many of the biggest, most prominent companies in Silicon Valley—including giants like Apple and Google—have illegally colluded against their employees to depress wages, so even employees who do get past the exclusionary hiring processes won’t necessarily end up in an environment where they’ll be paid fairly or have equal opportunity to advance. If the effort to educate many more programmers succeeds, simple math tells us that a massive increase in the number of people qualified to work on technology would only drive down today’s high wages and outrageously generous benefits. (Say goodbye to the free massages!) And at a more philosophical level, a proper public education, paid for by taxpayers, shouldn’t be oriented toward simply providing workers for a group of some of the wealthiest, most powerful companies to have ever existed. That’s a pretty damning case against teaching kids to code? So why would somebody still favor the massive investment and cultural shift required to pull it off? Well[...]



Fifteen is the past

2016-09-11T14:10:24Z

We’ve been saying “never forget” for so long that we don’t even know why we’re saying it. At JFK airport, panic over… nothing. On the... We’ve been saying “never forget” for so long that we don’t even know why we’re saying it. At JFK airport, panic over… nothing. On the other side of the country, at LAX, panic over… nothing. As it turns out, if you tell people to be afraid all the time for long enough, it will work. Meanwhile, as always, the greatest danger to Americans, by several orders of magnitude, is each other. I try to work as hard as I can at not getting cynical. Each year when I observe the anniversary of the attacks, I try to return to my mindset that day. More than anything else, I felt an overwhelming sadness. Not anger, not a desire for revenge, not some intellectual detachment or irony, just sadness. That’s not to say I haven’t moved on; I clearly have, as evidenced by my newfound ability to visit the new World Trade Center or the surrounding complex and have it be just an ordinary part of my day. But it still catches me off guard pretty easily. It’s hard to explain the perspective of that day in our culture now that everyone under the drinking age is too young to really remember what happened that day, and nearly everyone under the driving age wasn’t even alive at the time. Sometimes it feels like everything has been reduced to meaningless platitudes and reductionist catchphrases and ironic memes. I don’t know how to convey the fact that we could see the towers aflame, smell the smoke, and yet our sadness and grief was even more powerful than our sense of fear or disbelief. And of course, the ones who literally have forgotten, who publicly ignore the lessons of that day, are the most cynical “leaders” who most sought to profit from it. They ignore that the attacks happened as they did, and deny that we felt as we did when witnessing them, in favor of creating a narrative that only serves their agenda. “Never forget” is the rhetoric of “let me make up a story to suit my aims”. But I was there that day, and I haven’t forgotten. And the feeling of being in New York City on 9/11 was not about jumping at our own shadows, even though the fighter jets flying overhead did give us a good scare. It was not about being sold on endless cycles of violence and oppression, but of unbelievable, unimaginable kindness and humanity to complete strangers. I don’t dismiss or deny that so much has gone so wrong in the response and the reaction that our culture has had since the attacks, but I will not forget or diminish the pure openheartedness I witnessed that day. And I will not let the cynicism or paranoia of others draw me in to join them. What I’ve realized, simply, is that 9/11 is in the past now. In culture it is a story we tell each other, not an event that we witnessed or a moment that we experienced. That was inevitable, I know. But the mythologizing of that day into a narrative that justifies more paranoia, fear, and violence is not an inevitability, and I still will not concede to those who work to do so. I still remember what it felt like. In Past Years Each year I write about the attacks on this anniversary, as a means of recording for myself where I am compared to that day. I don’t think I’m saying much that’s profound or original, but it’s a ritual that’s helped me fit those events into my life. Last year, Fourteen is Remembering For the first time, I clearly felt like I had put the attacks firmly in the past. They have loosened their grip on me. I do[...]