Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wondering, slightly off-topic

If anybody is still here, and on the off chance you still want to know where the hell I've been, I'll tell you. I spent the last day and a half same place most you likely did-- glued to screens and speakers, catching up on details and coverage. (Where I've been for months before that is a separate question, one I keep meaning to address in something other than a sidetracky note in parenthesis.)

As you undoubtedly know, among the coverage from the Pentagon and from Pakistan, and from the White House, there is coverage from Ground Zero and from many a studio where family members of those who perished on September 11th have come to answer questions about How They Are Feeling Now.

A digression, or a sidetrack, if you will. About two and a half years ago Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination started making rounds in our little corner of the blogosphere, and so did the lines from the book that many of us wanted on t-shirts (or carved carefully and lovingly into rotten tomatoes conveniently available to us any time the urge to throw one, or at the very least the line on it, at the clueless/malevolent overtook us). One of those lines, one quoted frequently and with gusto by many a babylost mother was "closure is bullshit."

Back to present day. I notice one persistent theme in the coverage. Every time a relative or a friend of a 9/11 victim is interviewed, no matter the outlet, there is always that ridiculous question-- "does this provide closure for you?"

And so, though I know that is not the main thrust in the events that have been unfolding around the world since early hours of Monday morning Pakistan time (not entirely surprising, this, as I do tend to, from time to time, you know, digress... wait, where was I? oh, yes-- not entirely the central point, but...) I wonder whether maybe, just maybe, this time it will finally sink in.

Because in an inspiring display of dignity (and honestly, I find myself offended for these people every time they are asked about this), every single relative that I've seen or heard has said approximately what Elizabeth wrote, though in language more suited for mass media,-- there is no closure, there is no such thing, it doesn't exist, he/she/they are still dead, and we still miss them and have to live without them.

Closure is a convenient stamp. It is a useful plot device, and it is a great marker for those unaffected who want those affected to be OK-- what you need is to get closure and move on. I hope it will sink in, but I know it's unlikely. The allure of simple explanations and carefully wrapped up stories is too strong, and we're only human. And yet, knowing full well that I am pretty much hollering into the wind, I want to echo Lee Ielpi, father of Jonathan, firefighter who perished on 9/11, as quoted in the NYTimes this morning: "No closure. That word should be stricken from the English language."

23 comments:

Wiley said...

Still think the dwarves of grief sound like a great idea... I wasn't following any blogs that would have covered it 2.5 years ago, but NPR covered the book right about the time our son was born 10 weeks early and our daughter was born still after six weeks of hospital bedrest following her demise. Read it in the NICU on the Kindle app and have never highlighted so much of a book...

and in answer to the question of is anybody still here, I'm not sure how/where I added you to my reader feed, but must have been sometime in the last four months, so not "still" here, but here.

niobe said...

I spent the last day and a half same place most you likely did-- glued to screens and speakers, catching up on details and coverage.

Y'know, I read this and said to myself, gosh, I really didn't think Julia was the type to get so caught up in the Royal Wedding.

Sigh.

Kymberli said...

I'm still here and reading and of course, wondering where the heck you've been (as if I should talk, considering my almost-pregnancy-long hiatus from my blog).

It's funny (in the way that things like this can only be) that I communicated the thread of what you've written here to my kids when explaining to them what happened the next morning. It's such a tricky thing, explaining why people were cheering about the death of someone, even if that someone was a villian. I explained that people were cheering because for much of America (and the world), bin Laden's demise was the conclusion of a very long, very difficult story. They already have an understand of 9/11, so this wasn't particularly difficult for them to get.

As we watched the news (as we do everyday as we busy ourselves with our morning routine), some reporter asked a 9/11 surviving family member, "Do you feel closure?" I asked the kids if they thought the friends and family members of those lost in 9/11 felt like the "story" was over for them. In their wisdom, they pretty much said, "No." Jaiden said, "I wouldn't ever stop feeling sad even if the person who killed you was dead themselves."

From the mouths of babes...


(Aside - she doesn't write for herself anymore, but it's like a nugget of sarcastic gold whenever I find classic niobe comment sprinkled somewhere in the 'sphere.)

JoyAndSorrow said...

You've given voice to my thoughts on this, exactly.

still life angie said...

Yeah, I have been cringing at these closure statements, like the death of a monster could bring anyone closure, or make any grief okay. I have closure, on my jacket, but not in my heart.

Sending you love, missing you, hoping to do some kind of babylost meetup this summer. You and Niobe up for something like that?

Sue said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree. I really do.

Questions like "does this bring closure?" remind me of the oldie, but goodie, "how do you feel?" asked of the loved one/survivor of a horrible tragedy or disaster. I always used to give the finger to the newscaster and say, "How you think I feel?" (Four-letter words and finger not mutually exclusive."

Grief is grief. It's all different, but it all sucks. And there is no fucking closure.

(Glad to "hear" your voice again.)

Hope's Mama said...

Absolutely. Elizabeth really did say it best, in so many ways.
"Closure is bullshit".
Nice to hear from you though, even in these circumstances.
xo

erica said...

Yes, to all of this.

Ya Chun said...

I really need to turn on the TV sometimes. I didn't know people were celebrating... not sure how I feel about that. Maybe reporters are using 'closure' as a secret word to the less-nice-sounding 'revenge'.

I really hope there is a power-void in Al qaeda, cause that is the only thing that really matters.

Nice to see a post from you again, although I have no room to talk!

Anonymous said...

Anderson Cooper, whose brother and father both died, actually told one of the 9/11 widows that he thought closure wasn't possible. She used the word, and he asked her if she really thought that closure was possible (or words to that effect).

tree town gal said...

Oh, I'm with Wiley-- I don't do feeds because I think checking is sorta fun instead. And I am wowed to see those I love - Niobe and Kymberli responding as well.

This cheering has been odd, hasn't it. You may cheer that we may be closer to peace but really. Does anyone believe that? There is no closure - the babes are right - you were sad yesterday and you will be sad tomorrow that your beloved is gone. Doesn't matter is any bastard died along the way.

Missed you. Miss Niobe. Miss Kymberli. But glad to see you both in this thread of comments.

Magpie said...

Closure is bullshit. Totally with you. (Also, happy to see you.)

loribeth said...

Always good to see a post from you in my reader, Julia. : ) I heard & thought the exact same things. Closure is BS, indeed.

Peg said...

What a great post. If I hear one more time that soon we'll find closure or just "get over it" I think I'll scream.

Cloaca said...

I worked really hard for closure. Not sure where it came from after the waters were so still but today in a most unprofessional manner I lost it. I don't know. I guess there's never closure, there's just learning to repress. I'm okay with that.

diana said...

Niobe? Like in, Niobe? Oh, my heart, be still!

There's no such thing as closure, as everybody knows. It's only the innocent who can say such a thing.

Lana Banana said...

Well written!

Alice said...

I really agree. The way the media cover grief just isn't helpful. It means that when people have to face the real thing they have no resources with which to do it. Alice

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