Read Michael Stipe’s “Thoughts On The 21st Century” Essay About 9/11, American Attitudes

Ever since R.E.M. broke up a few years ago, Michael Stipe has had some free time, and he’s become something of a man-about-town in New York: showing up on Colbert, making speeches at awards ceremonies, writing music for films. In his latest endeavor, Stipe contributed to Douglas Coupland’s new book Everywhere Is Anywhere Is Anything Is Everything, and his essay is reprinted today in The Guardian. The piece is, at least ostensibly, about Coupland, whose op-art-style pictures don’t immediately register as being pictures of Osama Bin Ladin or of people jumping from the World Trade Center. But Stipe’s piece goes on to encompass the 9/11 attacks, Stipe’s immediate reaction on that morning, and the militaristic turn that the country took in its aftermath. Here are some highlights:

The Freedom Tower was meant to inspire patriotism and instead embodies the darker sides of nationalism. The 9/11 attacks and the Bush administration’s response, buoyed by the media, and our shock at having finally been direct victims of terrorism, paved the way for a whole new take on “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” There was no longer any need to explain or publicly debate militaristic power, or the police state mindset. To do so was to be the opposite of a patriot…

Oh no … really? Is that who we are now? Blind, unquestioning, warlike? Are we that violent, that childish, that silly, that shallow? Are we that afraid of others? Of ourselves? Of the possibility of genuine change? Are we that easily swayed, that capable of defending “American interests”, whatever “American interests” means? Are we that racist, that terrified, that protective of an idea that we don’t even question what the idea has come to represent?

You can read the whole piece at The Guardian.