September 11, 2008

This Mourning

This morning, many will surely go about their day, casting backward glances toward New York in 2001, or with even more historical reckoning, to Chile of 1973, and Allende's overthrow. For a select few, the families who suffered and the individuals whose friends were killed will mourn with more intensity, surely, because of the calendar's turn and the trick of waiting for the day when the release is framed and held open for public remembrance. Will they read the names again this year at ground zero, tolling the bell, and is it left to those individuals alone to wait and listen and hear, in the sound of public address, the enunciation of their loss?

For another set of the self-selected, this is a day of melancholic identification; the day they can again kill off the quivering intelligence of ambivalence, claim the righteous mantle of the most-wounded and still undaunted, insist on the project of eternal ruin and absolute rebuilding, and project always the purest motives of their mad defense. Where does this come from? What motivates the entrenchment? As Wendy Brown thinks through the political manifestation of this, she finds the reflex that inevitably follows the seduction: "Idealizing the lost object as it was never idealized when alive. Straightforward, perhaps, but not simple, for this affect also involves remorse for a past of not loving the object well enough and self-reproach for ever having wished for its death or replacement."

As Brown works through the so-called politics this creates, she pricks the aggressiveness engendered. There is, she says, in the fortressed posture that arises, the gnawing guilt of having been so seduced. Thus the response is to fall in turn for the foul temptation to defend the idealization, and one's right to idealize, "tout court." One idealizes themselves into a crypt, an inescapable hold of the past and a sensibility as a alive and alert as concrete. This is, as Auden wrote in a poem he would later reject for its own assuredness,

The habit-forming pain
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.