Though I’ve been to the World Trade Center Site many times, until yesterday, I had not taken the Path train. Past trips to the site flood me with memories from that day. I remember the fear, the burning smell, the plume of dust, and the sirens. I know that this suffering is not unique in the world, but 9/11 was closest that I’ve ever been to it. So coincidentally, on the same day that Osama Bin Laden released his video message to the American people, I visited the site he ordered to be destroyed. Remote control violence–give an order on one continent, bombs drop on another. It’s easier to forget about humanity when one frames the debate in terms of objectives and platitudes. (Jonathan Glover’s Humanity, A Moral History of the 20th Century illuminates this grim topic and offers solutions.) But now the World Trade Center site has been scrubbed clean, turned into a bit of a memorial and an efficient construction site. I still felt the site’s power, but felt it less keenly than on previous visits. I don’t know if I was overwhelmed, numb, or if I’ve grown so used to the sensation that it’s no longer the same. Going down into the station took me closer than I’ve ever been and yet 9/11 never felt further away. Go figure.
Timothy Wilson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, in his book, “Strangers to Ourselves,” introduced the idea of the adaptive unconscious. In essence, some 80% of your thinking happens automatically. Think of the adaptive unconscious as that generator in the basement that powers your actions–instead of what you consciously will. Similarly, your computer also has lots going on in the background beyond the few programs you’ve asked it to run, but unlike the adaptive non-conscious, it’s possible to learn exactly what your computer doing.
Yesterday I gave blood for the first time, momentarily overcoming my fear of needles and all things surgical. I had promised myself that I would do it after the triathlon season, and Columbia was hosting a blood drive so yesterday after work I went over to Uris Hall to tap a vein. You complete a form with lots of health questions, which a nurse reviews. Your blood is tested for iron levels, your pulse and blood pressure taken. My pulse was about 20 beats per minute over its normal resting rate–my fear of needles is alive and well. After that’s all done, you get in line to lie on a stretcher and donate.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Bechtel Inc, the engineering firm selected by the US Agency for International Development to rebuild the infrastructure in Iraq, gave $1.3 million in political contributions to Democrats and Republicans between 1999 and 2002 . Not a bad investment considering the contract is immediately worth $34.6 million and could cost over $680 million over 18 months.
1) Kerry was presidential. The president seemed like a cartoon caricature of himself. Think Cartman, of South Park, playing sheriff and shouting: “do not question my authoritah!!!” Bush seemed childish and resentful of Kerry’s critiques.