No Photographs

In Bent, Melancholy, Wrecked Chariot on May 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm

When you step off of one of 50 or more buses that arrive at the Pentagon,  what is the one sign you see more than any other sign?   Every 20 feet or so,  “No Photographs.”   Sorry I don’t have a photo to show you.  I bet you get the picture.  It is only written in English.  And it has a camera in a red circle with a red strike-through.

Mind you, no phraseology more seemly or genteel, such as, “No Photography, Please.” (Would you see that in England? Australia? Brazil? Canada? Costa Rica?)  And doesn’t every other country in the world put memorial sites and tourist site signs in at least 5 or 10 major world languages?  Don’t hold your breath when looking for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.   If you wander up and down the bus platforms in vain searching for a sign directing you to the memorial, don’t worry: no one will help you.  The “see it, say it” campaign urging all Metro users to alert authorities of “suspicious activity” ensures that someone will call a tip line before they ever try to help you.

It would tax our courtesy as taxpayers to print a sign stating,  “Kindly Refrain from Taking Photographs.”

Or how about,  “Please Respect our Need to be Insanely Paranoid.  Don’t even THINK about Photographing the Pentagon or We Will Hunt You Down Wherever Any Such Thought Lurks in the Recesses of Your Mind!!!  We have Psy-Ops as evidence of what you are thinking!!!!  No other proof needed, and POOF, you’ll be next in the dungeons of Guantanamo!!!!  And Don’t even THINK about having a trial, EVER.   Don’t think about knowing what the charges are, or what evidence against you we have collected!!!   Ever.  OUR PARANOIA is ALL THE PROOF WE NEED THAT YOU ARE GUILTY!!”

The Pentagon has not yet managed to scrub the cache of trillions of clip-art photos of every conceivable exterior of the Pentagon possible from the internet.  I am too cheap and not internet savvy enough to buy one for this post.

In what has sadly become a typical “ho-hum” moment in a country that has no semblance of “Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing….” (which no one had the grace to sing last night, neither the Official or the Anti-Slavery versions) left, I listened to and watched a U.S. Special Something High Up or High On The Military absolutely REAM out a mere mortal passer-by like me on the periphery of the Pentagon this morning, about 9 am.

A Stark Reminder of what DARE befall anyone who falls outta line, boy!  Keep your eyes straight ahead, do not look left or right.   The officer addressed the man in English, utterly assuming the person he was addressing spoke or comprehended English.  “What ARE YOU DOING!! YOU CAN’T TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS!  DON’T YOU SEE THE SIGNS EVERYWHERE!!!!” he bellowed in a voice dripping in derision, and yes, hate and vengeance.  The gentleman’s skin was not white, and I would be a fool to speculate on any of millions of nations he could have in his background, or whether he is or is not a U.S. citizen.  The officer who was yelling’s skin was white, but I am not sure what assumptions you can make there, either.

The gentleman was cast into the officer’s net.  The officer had him close, and I was going the other way, towards the 9/11 Memorial.   I knew I would immediately be interrogated as  something in accomplice if I paused, but one more look back showed it was most likely the officer was confiscating his camera, which he had in his hand.

I couldn’t help myself but to spit on several of the  “No Photographs” signs on the way to the memorial.  Freedom.  Freedom of Speech.  Freedom of the Press.  Freedom of Assembly.  Yup, this is what it looks like.  In actual action.  In living, breathing color, right here, right now, today.

This is what we’ve become.  The freedom to yank the camera right off your neck if we don’t like the looks of you!

Not that there is anything remotely interesting or hopeful or consoling about the Pentagon exterior or parking lot.  It looks like every other eyesore in the U.S.  No beaux-art flourishes.  No Frank Lloyd Wright meditations.   No honorific to the slain earth that is wounded by our roads and war war war war war of words, motive, mind,machine, weapons, economy, chatter chatter chatter terror terror, turning any direction it feels like, with paranoia its only proof, insecurity its sole security.

I was utterly alone after a large group in orange jumpsuits from the mid-west left.  I honestly thought for  a second the  9/11 Families for a Peaceful Tommorrow had re-staged their 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo at the site this morning, reminding us that Guantanamo is a shame ever more in need of closure.  But no, they were not.

Since I was the only one there, I spoke to both Fox news and The Washington Post, who were also wandering the memorial, looking for reaction, from almost no one but a few scattered birds and people.  I think it made us all sad that no one was there.  No one feels welcome, and there are really no signs indicating a memorial even exists if you are just a normal person getting on and off the bus at the Pentagon.

It all just feels like sad rhetoric from which we’ll never escape:  War on Terror. Bin Laden, dead or alive. Not  as much real events, as emblems for getting people to turn against each other, turn each other in, and protest nothing.

The war machine will keep on devouring us, and no one notices how the rhetoric has divided us beyond repair.  We accept random arbitrary interrogations and seizures of anyone without protest.  Whoever is caught in the dragnet is “other”–call them “enemy combatant,” “terrorist,” and wipe your conscience clean from ever having to think of them again.

When I lamented aloud that I realized no photographs would be allowed at the Pentagon, a lady at the bus stop thought I was quite foolish.  She said they wouldn’t put me in jail, they’d just take my camera.  Giving moral equivalence to both, and accepting both equally as “the new normal” in which we are all compliant sheep.  She has no feeling of loss of freedom of speech and thinks we should hand over our cameras, and if need be, our lives, in the “war on terror.”

I agree, there is no closure.  The way propaganda is spun relentlessly against us means that even when The Bad Guy is dead, the war against freedom will continue to carry on without skipping a beat.   So, so, much senseless blood has been shed any way you want to look at it.  Grief will never go away, it is just a wound that comes and goes.  The whole way the charade is spun into political theatre  trammels my ideas of grief and liberty beyond any capacity to shape thought about it.  So, I walk wordlessly through the memorial, unable to take photographs, and worrying that I will be indicted for daring to have the audacity of eyes, heart, and mind, which can weave images more searing than any camera can.


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