Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Ballad Of Sean Ryan

9/11. Judgement Day. Well.....maybe not. But a pretty big day nonetheless, right? I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about it....I was a sophomore at Humboldt State University. I was done with class for the day, and was walking back to my dorm through the community forest. My dorm colleague from the previous year (Sunset Third!), who I will call Matt In The Hat, was walking down the trail towards me. Matt was a stoner metalhead from Bakersfield, probably one of the few decent people to come out of that god-forsaken city. Oddly, he was also a practicing Quaker, who was always wearing some sort of leather fedora thing. He told me that someone had flown airplanes into the World Trade Center. Aside from the fact that a lot of people had probably died, the true meaning of this event, the consequences that we would have to live with for years to come, didn't really sink in for me. I think I got home in time to watch the second tower collapse into a pile of rubble.

The next day I was in my world geography class, which was in a massive room in Founder's Hall. I normally slept through it. But the professor had spent some time in the Middle East before, and had the dubious honor of taking a bullet in Afghanistan. He stated, very matter of factly, that we would be going to war with Afghanistan, and went on to explain why. This was days before the media even brought this up.

Of course, he was right, and 9/11 was a tragedy of grand proportions to all the victims and their loved ones.....and it was exactly what the Bush administration needed in order to run the country like their own used car dealership for the better part of a decade. Within a few years The American Dream had eroded into a garish nightmare, what Hunter S. Thompson would have called a "grim monument" to everything that could have been right with this country. Of course, this did not register in the thick skulls of most Americans until sometime in 2008, but by then it was too late. I am still reeling from it all, to be honest. I don't have any strong opinion either way on the 9/11 conspiracies....although I still find it very suspicious that fighter jets were never scrambled (which is the standard policy, then and now) to intercept any of the 4 planes that were highjacked. But that's not what this is about.

By late 2001 I was beginning to become, thanks to punk rock, college, and a few books, dimly aware of the goings-on in the world beyond what the major media outlets claimed. I was sickened by the newfound blind patriotism many people seemed to profess, and the loud, ringing drumbeat of a war with Iraq, that became louder with every passing week. The mountains of misinformation the Bush Administration and many Republican leaders were espousing (and many Democrats seemed to believe as well) were enormous. They couldn't be discounted fast enough. Texas Tea was on their minds from the start, but this was lost on the media, whom stared at Bush dumbly, with slack jaws and glazed eyes whenever he spoke. The Patriot Act passed without anyone reading it.

At some point, I obtained a large American flag that I proudly displayed upside down in the our large window that faced the street. Anyone driving or walking up to the Creekview dorms would see it if they looked up. It is understood that displaying Ol' Glory upside down was a sign of distress, and it represented my feelings about the state of affairs at the time.

One day I was sitting around with the legendary Matt Burks, when there was a knock at the door. A concerned-looking skinny white dude about our age stood outside. He said his name was Sean Ryan, and he lived above me. Without any prompting, he walked in and angrily asked me why the flag was hung upside down. I told him why, and he swore at me mercilessly, demanding that I take it down. Apparently, he couldn't stand looking at it every made his heart flutter. His All-American sensibilities had been slighted. I explained to him that I had no reason to take it down at all, and there was nothing he could do about it. He finally lost control of himself, screaming at me and poor Burks about the victims on the planes, gesticulating wildly. It disturbed me to the point where I told him I would remove it, just to get the raving bastard out of my apartment. Burks and I were shocked at this experience of (albeit mild) oppression of our beliefs, in little ol' hippie-laden Humboldt County, no less. As promised.....I took the flag down.....and hung it upside down in another window instead, so that anyone entering our building had to see it. Sean Ryan never had the balls to come back, or even look me in the eye after that. But angry megapatriots tend to be blind anyways.

This is the time of year when my love/hate relationship with this country is at a peak. And now, this year, we are in the midst of an epic battle over health insurance. Once again people are completely polarized. Is the plan perfect? Hell no. A lot of my friends and colleagues still can't afford to pay it, and being fined for having no insurance is just an easy way to fund the program. But I do have to say that I support it. If it manages to pass with a public option in place, it is far, far better than the current situation (for the record, this is coming from someone who has no health insurance to speak of), and can at least serve as a crucial stepping stone to something better in the future. Republican lawmakers have once again outdone themselves to carry out exactly what insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry pays them to do, and the Fox News (which is, in turn, the direct mouthpiece of the Far Right) watching American public has once again proven themselves gullible enough to gobble up the bullshit like Thanksgiving stuffing. These are the people who learn about the world through "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" and new items on the McDonald's menu. The Ballad of Sean Ryan is being sung by these people across the country, and it is a sad song indeed. It will be replayed over and over again for years to come, but if we turn a deaf ear, maybe future generations won't have to relive 9/11 all over again.


  1. I live in Utah so I get to deal with those types of people daily. Its funny how ignorant so many individuals still are today.

    BTW, I read BSC and that how I stumbled across this. I enjoyed the post.

  2. Thanks man, I appreciate it. I can't riff on stuff like BK can, but I give it a shot now and then.