Written by Brian Moran
For us 9/11 kids, there's something that sticks out about The Rising as an album from the first note of "Lonesome Day."
They say that the political events of your childhood/adolescent days define your political views for the rest of your life. And as 3rd graders sitting in school watching those towers go down, we had no idea that this is exactly what was happening: we were becoming politically indoctrinated.
9/11 is to us what JFK's murder is to many readers of this blog. And there's a reason everyone can tell you exactly where they were when each of these earth-shattering events happened: not only were they both absolutely terrible and heartbreaking, but both also marked a turning point in the overall direction of the country as a whole. JFK's murder marked the end of the trademarked, harmonious image of the 1950's and introduced the chaotic, also trademarked "'60s" (1963-1975) and a stalemated war in Vietnam, while 9/11 began an age of paranoia, unthinkable debt, and a new enemy to replace the communist: "the terrorist."
The changes that came as a result of 9/11 were crucially important for all of us, but most of your political brains had simply already been wired. Ours hadn't. So in many ways, 9/11 has become a huge part of who we are, as weird as that sounds. In a Freudian way, it's been wired into us.
So when we hear The Rising, something just rings, and we connect with it in a way that no other generation could. And sure, you've definitely got the direct lyrical references to 9/11 and the war on terror ("Baby once I thought I knew everything I needed to know about you," "Better ask questions before you shoot" "Into the Fire" as a whole, it goes on and on).
But for me, the part that speaks most powerfully is the "Laaaaa la la la la la la" of "The Rising" (the song). Obviously, no direct 9/11 reference here. But that's the great thing about music: it can communicate an idea so much more effectively and efficiently than the spoken word. And as a 9/11 kid, you hear his tone in songs like "The Rising" and you go, "Oh yeah, this is our stuff." But when Professor Werner asked us in class why we all liked the album so much, we couldn't really give him any direct lyrical references. Something just clicked, and it was there for every single one of us.
The sad thing, though, is that the amount of music out there today that speaks to us in this way is very small. Popular music today is a lot more "rave" focused, ecstasy driven, and generally apolitical. The truth is that this is often what happens in troubled times like now: people turn to dance music to escape the blues realities of the world around them.
But as I continue to drive through the ghettos of Chicago that we undoubtedly have the resources to feed, house and properly educate if we really wanted to; as the national college loan debt reaches one trillion dollars, repeat, one thousand, thousand million dollars; as our brothers, sisters, cousins, fathers, sons, daughters, mothers are sent off to fight a war that we KNOW and HAVE KNOWN is based on a lie for years now, the time has come for my generation to take a break from dancing and rise up against those who casually whisper "Death To My Hometown" at the dinner table. And while it's obvious that albums like Wrecking Ball that deal with these problems speak to the souls of the boomers and Xers, it has the potential to do the same for us 9/11 kids as well, because these are problems that we've got to deal with before they get too far out of hand. Rise up.
Brian Moran, who recently completed his freshman year at UW Madison plans on majoring in philosophy. He grew up on the south side of Chicago, where he played football and rugby in high school, and worked at a family owned grocery store for a couple of years.