It’s crazy to me that we just celebrated the 20th anniversary of 9/11—it’s even crazier that I’m now old enough to work with people who are so young they have no memories of that day. Maybe because I’ve been trying to unplug from the news and social media a bit, or perhaps because even though I know 9/11 was a national tragedy, Asheville isn’t as New York adjacent as PA, but it didn’t seem like the 20th anniversary was made as big of a deal of as I would’ve guessed.
You know who was celebrating, though in an entirely tone-deaf and thoroughly politicized way, was wrapped up in a “let’s-keep-politics-out-of-this” trojan horse? If you guessed Western North Carolina political wunderkind and Naval Academy truth-stretcher Madison Cawthorn, then you’d be correct!
Now, in all fairness, I should point out that Madison wasn’t the only person I saw post the meme that’s enraged me. I’d been seeing it off and on over social media all day (obviously, my attempts to unplug are wildly failing), but his (fittingly) just happened to be the post I saw when I got home Saturday night from a gorgeous fall-feeling evening at Zilicoah, which gave me the…let’s just go with courage (of the liquid variety, natch)…to delve into some petty back in forth via Instagram comment section with Madison’s followers. A futile mission for sure, but I regret nothing.
“I would never want another 9/11,” the meme begins innocuously enough (because, same) before taking a real turn. “I miss the American of 9/12. Stores ran out of American flags to sell because they were being flown everywhere. People were American before they were upper or lower class, Jewish or Christian, Republic or Democrat. We hugged people without caring if they ate at Chik Filet or wore Nikes.” Editor’s note: Did Madison undo his own deep wisdom by disparaging “radical leftist socialists” just a few Instagram stories later? OF COURSE.
This meme is trash for the reasons I’m going to outline below.
- It’s tone-deaf as hell: You know who would probably trade in all the flags, hugs, and Nikes they could get their hands on if they could to never have another 9/12? The thousands of Americans who lost loved ones on 9/11. Who else? The thousands of Americans who were injured on 9/11. You know who else? Sane people. Empathetic people. People who realize that 2,996 lives are not worth everyone waving a goddamn flag. Editor’s note: Did Madison follow up this meme on his Instagram story with a message that said something to the effect of “on 9/11 20,000 children lost a parent?” OF COURSE, HE DID.
- It lacks room for nuance: This is the political version of an empty social media platitude. It purports to say a lot but says nothing. 9/11 was undoubtedly awful and should be commemorated, but it’s a turning point in American history that should be interrogated and discussed like any significant historical event. For example, it’s sort of hard to say that in the aftermath of 9/11, whether you’re upper or lower class doesn’t matter, when a disproportionate number of lower-class Americans were killed in the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East. And 9/11 is an easy tragedy to come together over because there’s a common non-American enemy to blame and root against. It makes you wonder why we didn’t come together as a country after the Parkland school shooting…or after a mob of special snowflakes stormed The Capital and killed police officers…
- It’s a cop-out: The supposed genus of this meme is that we should stop being political and start being Americans. There seems to be a genuine circular Venn Diagram that consists of Republicans and people who like to say that we should stop being political and come together. Like, you guys and your cohort of Trump minions are the reason things are so divisive now, and instead of having the guts to own that divisiveness, you pretend for some reason to be neutral. This is incredibly annoying coming from Madison, who posts a lot of “remember when men were manly” content (Madison’s version of manly often consists of selfies where he’s pretending to know how to smoke a cigar…it’s hilarious and tragic), yet he shies away from big, manly opinions…
This concludes the end of my rant. If you stayed this long, thank you. Also, apologies that this is becoming a Madison Cawthorn hate club, which I don’t entirely regret either.