Ten years ago, that beautiful autumn morning, I was not long into my first "real" job out of college, not long into the life away from family, and soon to see the demise of my first serious long-term relationship.
A lot happened in ten crazy years, not only in my life (4 more jobs and 4 more relocations), but also in the world around me. The history of these ten years is of unfathomable importance to my generation, I think. Someone must sit down and write a few books about what the hell happened in this decade --- 2 wars, 2 recessions, lives lost, homes lost, fortunes lost, legs lost.
What the fuck happened, and why, and who were accountable for what?
But, it seems, everyone around me, every article on the Web, every talking head on TV, every headline printed in newspapers, is obsessed with the minutest details of what happened four days ago, and what will happen now, tomorrow, perhaps next month. I feel alone in the complicated and confusing feelings that well up in me when I reflect on the past ten years, the history in which I have lived, and try to sort out what it all means.
The archetypal American story is about erasing one's past. It is the land of opportunity, where anyone can make a fortune without aristocratic titles or blood --- or so we are told. From the Great Gatsby to Don Draper, even those who fail to muster wealth and power are able to at least obliterate any dark spots in their past. Look ahead, everyone, to the next gold mine! Go West! Go forward! Never look back.
I can't honestly assign the tendency of selective amnesia, this rush to forget, to this people, of course, since I have seen the same before. After all, I grew up in the time immediately after the Cultural Revolution and saw how the voluntary hush fell on both the power that be and ordinary people who were traumatized and ashamed. Forget. Let us never speak of or examine the unpleasant memory again, in case we uncover something unpleasant about ourselves. Leave all the ghosts wandering in the swamp of the collective unconscious. Bury all the shame and fear in the mud, never examined. Out of mind, at least out of the conscious mind.