Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and Why I Will Not Be Watching It

Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center starring Nicholas Cage opened in theaters across the country August 9. It is a movie primarily about the rescue efforts of two Port Authority officers during 9/11. Some critics believed it to be a good movie, but I was not in the audience. I will not be watching that film in the theater.

I am speaking as a military veteran, who knows some of the servicemen and women fighting and dying overseas as well as those who became police officers and firefighters in various cities.

I will not watch it when it comes out on DVD.

I am speaking as a son who almost lost his father during the 1st Twin Towers bombing in 1993.

I will not watch it once it hits HBO, or Showtime or any other pay cable network.

I am speaking as a man who, on 9/11, was trapped in a crowd of panicked citizens fleeing downtown Philadelphia, wondering if America’s birthplace might be the next target.

I will not watch it once it premieres on network television.

I am speaking as a patriot who acknowledges this is still the best country in the world but also realizes there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Why won’t I see this film? Because I still remember the days immediately following the tragedy. I remember watching CNN and seeing people from countries all over the globe crying at the pain of our trauma. I remember reading newspapers struggling to deal with anger and loss as if they were a real person instead of just paper and ink. I remember broadcasters fighting to maintain their composure on camera. I remember watching the Towers fall.

What I remember most, though, was the camaraderie in the aftermath. As a black man, I can honestly say that I have grown used to feeling somewhat excluded at times. It comes with the territory. Yet, I, and many other minorities as well, have often said they never felt more truly American than they did during the period after 9/11. It was our collective wound, and everyone bound together to help try to heal it. I remember seeing American flags on bumper stickers and car windows and lapels and front yards. I remember the nation being galvanized, capable of doing anything. I remember thinking this could be a true turning point, to have the most powerful nation in the history of mankind absolutely united; it could have been a fantastic opportunity to greatly change our nation and the world for the better.

Now, less than 5 years later, what has happened? We launched an ill-conceived war on shaky pretenses that might never end and certainly will not end well. The country is as polarized as it has ever been. Needless to say, the U.S. is not little miss popular any more in the global community. And now, we’ve made a movie. Not an actual docudrama, like United 93(another film I will not see), but a Hollywood star-studded feature flick with a budget of approximately $60 million.

Meanwhile, men and women in uniform are fighting, killing, bleeding and dying every day overseas. Many people still have no homes in New Orleans, trapped in poverty without much recourse. The process to rebuild the Twin Towers has repeatedly gotten bogged down with politics and economics. It has been started, stopped and rebooted so many times it almost feels like they are talking about a Windows-running PC, not the aftermath of the worst attack on United States Soil. But, hey, we can make a movie.

It has been less than 5 years. Often, the best way to look at history is with a sense of distance in order to gain the proper perspective. Malcolm X once said, “History is a people’s memory and without memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.” However, our memory, our history, is still tinged with the trauma of that day. Is 5 years really enough time? Has the nation actually moved past that day enough to be able to properly handle a story that emphasizes the human element so much? Especially when considering those servicemen and women fighting in the War on Terror, or, if you prefer its newer name within the administration, the Long War

Yes, from what I understand, Oliver Stone has managed to avoid any political agendas in the film, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, 9/11 has become the high ground soapbox for all sides in a war of political mudslinging. I can remember the outrage people felt against those who sold t-shirts and other “memorabilia” from the tragedy for personal gain, ruthlessly despising those would seek to make a profit in pain. Yet, many of those people are strangely silent about those who continue to use the tragedy as a means to hammer home their individual agendas, no matter who they might be. What do you think might happen with a brand spanking new flick to use as a talking point? There is a word for this type of politically useful media device, especially one so helpful toward a particular agenda. The word is propaganda.

So, why now? Why was this movie made now? As a writer, I understand it makes for a great story, but timing is a very important part of any story. What was the rush on producing this particular piece at this precise point in time? Why not wait another 5 years or even 10? I cannot believe anyone has actually forgotten that day. Truthfully, is there any one out there that does not remember, almost precisely, where they were that day? Is there anyone out there that does not remember being inspired by the very human yet super heroic efforts of the NYC police department and firefighters? Is there anyone who does not already know the broad strokes if not the precise details? Maybe only those who were just children when 9/11 happened, yet anybody who was that young during 9/11 might be still too young to watch this film.

Meanwhile, with the recent averted Terror plot involving those 10 planes happening during the same time as the release of the film, we can look forward to more soapbox mudslinging from fake “people’s champions” as opposed to real people actually having real conversations without any political subtext, something that happened quite often after 9/11. Meanwhile, the real stars of the story, the NY police and firefighters, the servicemen and women, will be tossed aside and forgotten again in all the posing and posturing. Once more, our heroes will become the victims, caught in the deadly crossfire between political schemers and ranting empty suits, none of whom actually listening at all but instead just impatiently waiting for their turn to talk.

Nobody wins while everybody loses.

That is why I will not see the film.

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