I caught the trailer of United 93 online and found myself once again with a lump in my throat and a lurch in my stomach. My feelings about the movie opening tonight are complicated. Of course, I have no issue with someone’s First Amendment right to make such a movie, even after so short a time, and even if it was a stand-in for "The Bourne Supremacy". Part of me is glad they did. The story of that flight is a transcendent one of self-government and self-defense; it’s a metaphor for ordinary folks taking back their destiny from evil; it’s an inspiring parable for democracy itself, and the genuine martyrdom it only recently demanded. I still wonder what would have happened to the American psyche if those monsters had successfully attacked the capitol, the symbol of democratic government. Whenever I think of that remarkable flight, my admiration for the men and women involved surges. (I’m particularly proud that someone who was openly homosexual helped save his country, and show once again that gay people are integral to any society as moral leaders.)
And yet, I will not see this movie, whatever its merits. The trauma is still too close. That day is still etched in me, as in all of us. It was a specific, unique trauma for those heroes on the plane; but it was also an emotional devastation for anyone who loves this country. Do we want to revisit their and our own traumas as entertainment? Perhaps this is cowardice, then, that I feel; and seeing it again would stiffen my spine against terror, and remind me of what we still owe the victims and the heroes of that day. But the years since, and the atrocities still committed by the Jihadists, have not diminished my or, I suspect, many other people’s desire to fight our enemy with vigor and precision. My spine hasn’t softened against al Qaeda. If anything, I want to defeat what they represent more now than ever.
So why the resistance to seeing it? Perhaps it’s a religious impulse. In some ways, I regard the acts of those men and women to be an almost sacred moment in the history of America and of freedom. And sometimes, the sacred is best respected through silence. Sometimes, the greatest deeds, like the most monstrous acts, are best left unrepresented. They stand alone. They demand to be left alone. One day, commemmorate. But do not so swiftly represent. Shakespeare often left the greatest moments in his plays off-stage. They have more power there.