M I C H A E L   K A T A K I S

12 Days Across America

Like millions of people around the world, the events of September 11, 2001 left me saddened, confused, and numb. After seeing the pictures of the tragedies repeated on television I wondered if the country or I would change in some way. On September 14th I set out across America to find out. I wanted to know if the country could be as reflective as it was reactive. Would we be able to discuss why this had happened or explore if our actions in other parts of the world over the years had somehow contributed to such misery here at home? After 12 days I had more questions than answers.
   As I traveled the country photographing and talking with people from different walks of life the American flag took on many symbols. For some it was a way to express their support for the country while feeling helpless. Others used it to intimidate those thought to be “different”, and for those who were intimidated it was something to hide behind as if to say “I, too, am an American”. In a number of stores the flag was used as a backdrop to remind people that it was patriotic to spend.
   As I drove through the West and Midwest I listened to Christian radio (sometimes it was hard to get anything else) and the demagogues who sounded identical to the extremist Muslims we were preparing to act against. In a small western town a woman wrote a letter to the local paper saying she agreed with the statements of Jerry Falwell. Most disturbing was the blind and grotesque patriotism that I witnessed outside of Chicago. It was the kind of patriotism that demands loyalty over conscience and always hastens a civil society’s end.
   To be sure, there were many rational and decent voices too, like the WWII veteran who spoke to me at the “Breakfast Nook” in Rapid City, South Dakota. “We can never kill innocent people or take away people's rights” he told me. Even with some of those rational and thoughtful voices and the remarkable heroics of the people of Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania I came away from this trip unsettled. If we, as a country and a people, wish to honor the dead, then nothing will serve them or us as well as seeking and telling the truth, not only about the terrorists, but about ourselves. I don’t know if we can.

Michael Katakis, New York City, 26 September, 2001
Home      Thumbnails      Previous      Next

Copyright © 2005 Michael Katakis All Rights Reserved.