The weight

Is it just us, or is everyone else having a hard time getting started this year? It’s the second week in January, and it feels like we’re barely out of the gate. This is supposed to be a time of rebirth, of bold new beginnings. Instead, we feel more like Sisyphus at the beginning of his journey, setting our shoulder against a burden that seems to have grown impossibly heavy.

How do we carry on in the wake of September 11, 2001, the day everything changed forever? That’s the question that has us stumped.

We don’t know what to tell you.

We considered suggesting that perhaps it’s time to finish paying our respects to the heroes and victims of 9-11 and get on with our lives. That’s the advice we’d give to just about anyone who seems to be overextending the limits of the grieving process. But this isn’t just about anyone. This is America, and we’re still suffering from the aftershocks of an earthquake that has fractured our society and culture to its very core. Our losses are real; our grief is legitimate. But what purpose does it serve?

When a pickup truck breezes by on the freeway, American flags flapping in the breeze—like a limousine leading a presidential motorcade or a hearse leading a funeral procession—what does it mean? Is it an expression of solidarity with the American people? Or does it symbolize our aloneness in the world?

What does it mean when Chevrolet and Ford tell us that the true American spirit resides in the vehicles that roll off their respective assembly lines? Are these giant multinational corporations down with the American working class, or will they just do and say anything to sell automobiles? Are we being ironic when we applaud the uncovering of Islamic women at the same time we deplore the uncovering of teen pop idols like Britney Spears? Is the president sending a mixed message when he encourages people to fly on airlines he knows aren’t safe?

It’s not easy, this burden we Americans carry. At times, we seem at odds with ourselves. The same freedoms we defend abroad—freedom of speech, freedom of religion—we simultaneously attack here at home. American landmarks have been rendered into rubble; cherished American ideals have been reduced to mere advertising slogans. Sorting the wheat from the chaff, the winners from the losers, is going to be difficult. We’d like to present a simple solution to all of this, but the complexity of the current crisis defies easy answers. All we can tell you is that all of us are going to have to carry the weight.

And it’s going to be heavy.

By the way, Happy New Year.