Are You Really OK?

Are You Really OK?

Are You Really OK?
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Sept. 12 2002 3:03 PM


Hi, David,

Ron Rosenbaum Ron Rosenbaum
Ron Rosenbaum is the author most recently of Explaining Hitler and The Secret Parts of Fortune; he writes a column for the New York Observer and was co-writer of the PBS/Frontline documentary "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero." David Gates' most recent book is the short-story collection The Wonders of the Invisible World. He's a senior writer at Newsweek.

I think I've hit the wall. I think I've got a case of chronic commentary fatigue. I think I've run out of opinions, insights, reflections on 9/11, the media, music, art, or dance. My eyes are glazing over now watching Scott Ritter on Fox cable. There's a fascinating enigmatic figure, but really, I'm too exhausted to tell you why I think so.

Still there's one thing I want to complain about: those Alan Alda ads. I don't know if you've seen them, but they've been on TV and radio in NYC constantly for weeks. Some foundation or government agency chose him to be a spokesman for free therapy for people with post-9/11 trauma. So, hour after hour I've had Alan Alda in my face asking in his incredibly unbearably caring way, "Are you all right? Are you really all right? Are you having trouble coping? Could you use some free counseling? No, really, you may NOT be all right but not know you're not all right. Maybe you should admit you're in DENIAL about the fact that you're suffering post-9/11 trauma. Have you thought of THAT?" (This obviously is not an exact transcript of the Alan Alda ad, but it's how it feels after hearing it incessantly, and "feelings are facts," right?) OK, dammit, I give up, I'm not all right anymore.

You know, I liked what you wrote about your work: "I'm mostly interested in people undoing themselves." I guess that's something true of many of my favorite dark works of art. (I also have a fondness—even more today—for the them of non-doing. There aren't as many works of art devoted to non-doing for obvious reasons, although Oblomov and Slacker are two of my perennial faves.) I don't think I'm undoing myself; I think I've come undone (big diff). Or maybe as Bush says, I've gone "nuc-u-lar." (This irritates me too—so lazy. Or maybe nobody around him has the guts to tell him he's been pronouncing it wrong.)

But the experience has given me new respect for the gifted among the bloggers and the network anchors who have to come up with commentary for 15 hours as Jennings did on ABC. Oh, yeah—on Bush and Iraq, maybe I'll just go Tom Friedman on you and repeat something a rabbi said to me recently: "It would be a great thing if we could make saying 'I don't know' into something sacred." A Jewish version of Keats' "negative capability." Sign me up. And sign me off. I'm ready for that drink. And yeah, I couldn't get through the damn Bush op-ed, so I'm buying.