hathor: (Sock Monkey)
hathor ([personal profile] hathor) wrote2014-09-11 11:42 am

Never forget...

When I was studying psych in grad school, one of the concepts discussed was the flashbulb memory, a highly detailed, exceptionally vivid 'snapshot' of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard. Usually these are highly personal, but occasionally there is an event of importance that impacts an entire community, a whole country, or the world, for which almost everyone will hold flashbulb memories. I went to grad school in the 90s, so the go-to flashbulb memory event was JFK's assassination, even though it happened before many of the students were born. Myself, I was born two months after. Therefore, I have an alibi: I wasn't the second gunman; I was in my mama's tum-tum trying to grow my toes in a more interesting order -- but I digress. Anyway, there's a new go-to flashbulb memory now, and yup, I remember where I was when I heard the news. So yeah, important, impactful event.

You know what I don't remember though? From when I was 5 or 8 or 12? Having an annual day of being maudlin to ensure that those flashbulb memories get called up, touched up, fired up. I think it's a new thing, to have an annual day of dwelling on something awful happening; well, there's Good Friday, but even as a non-Christian I can appreciate how incredibly important that is - and it's got a lot of history. I'm wondering what happened in the thirty-eight years between November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 to cause this change. Is it just the proliferation of social media? Has the Zeitgeist changed? Is there something inherent of the events of 9/11 that inspire this type of prolonged agony, that is NOT inherent in the events of 11/22?

I'm curious. I'm also kind of sick of dwelling on it.
desireearmfeldt: (Default)

[personal profile] desireearmfeldt 2014-09-11 03:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I suspect it's more about media/social media/zeitgeist than about actual differences, but that said, I personally find "terrorist bombing in which a lot of people died" both more tragic and scarier than "someone shot the president." (I mean, in general, not even taking into account that I was not alive in 1963 and was an adult in 2001.)
ckd: two white candles on a dark background (candles)

[personal profile] ckd 2014-09-11 03:57 pm (UTC)(link)
Particularly the media aspects; I think the sheer volume of live TV coverage made a huge difference. (Happening in one of the world's media capitals will do that.)

[identity profile] gentlescholar.livejournal.com 2014-09-11 07:50 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm not sure how different things are. We've had Pearl Harbor Day for over 70 years now. It just gradually had less impact over time.

[identity profile] surrealestate.livejournal.com 2014-09-11 07:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Surprisingly, I didn't know (even vaguely) anyone who was killed on 9/11, and honestly (I realize this may make me sound like a horrible person), if I wasn't from NY (and rather attached to it), I don't think it would hit me the way it does even after all these years. I haven't really understood why people with no personal connection to either people or place are so affected still.
siderea: (Default)

[personal profile] siderea 2014-09-11 10:27 pm (UTC)(link)
A couple of reasons I think. For one, I suspect for a huge number of Americans, it was The Day 'It Can't Happen Here' Got Proved False. American exceptionalism and isolationism got blown open. War, aside from our shooting one another, was something Americans thought of as happening Over There (and perhaps this demonstrates that Americans don't entirely think of Hawaii as part of "here", or perhaps that things that happen prior one's lifetime don't count in that emotional reckoning.)

For another, the very reason NY was targeted by those who wanted to terrorize Americans in the first place: NY is the capital city of America's heart. NY has never been just another place to Americans. For all the middle of the country (whether the physical middle or the economic middle) has tried to position itself rhetorically as the "real America", the real real America against which they always contended in vain has always been NYC. It is the synecdoche of our country. The strikes against Washington were understood as strikes against our government; the strikes against NYC were understood as strikes against us.

[personal profile] ron_newman 2014-09-12 03:47 am (UTC)(link)
Hawaii was not a state in 1941, just another overseas territory (like Puerto Rico or Guam still are). So I'm not sure people regard it as having been fully part of the US then.

At the time, I compared the 9/11 attacks to the British burning of Washington DC in 1814 -- the last time anyone had successfully attacked the US mainland.
Edited 2014-09-12 03:48 (UTC)

[identity profile] r-ness.livejournal.com 2014-09-12 10:43 am (UTC)(link)
I agree with much of what others have already said in comments above me. One important aspect I think that hasn't been mentioned is that there is a great political interest in continuing to dwell on the attack, as a justification for both military action overseas and an increasing culture of fear at home.

There wasn't a similar continuing political interest after the assassination of President Kennedy, not for long. Johnson pushed through legislation like the Civil Rights Act invoking the memory of JFK, and I do think the memory of Kennedy's commitment to a moon landing contributed to the success of that goal. Beyond that, though? Five years later America voted in the man Kennedy had defeated.

As for Pearl Harbor, there was a clear and defined end to that war. After VJ Day--less than four years later--the Japanese were the defeated enemy under occupation, and no threat at all. Soon after that, they were America's vital allies in their fight against Godless Communism in Korea.

By contrast, America's still in Afghanistan, and once again America's engaged in combat in Iraq. The United States has been at continuous war since the invasion of Afghanistan after September 11th. It's not really surprising that during this continuous war there's an annual day of dwelling on why the war continues to be fought.

I'm not saying this is all a conspiracy. Nonetheless, there is a definite interest served by having this annual commemoration. Many uncoordinated actors can act independently and still reinforce each other.

[identity profile] r-ness.livejournal.com 2014-09-12 10:45 am (UTC)(link)
One other thing I remember is that between January 28, 1986 and September 10, 2001, that flashbulb memory was the Challenger disaster.