Do you believe in fate? I like to think I don’t, and yet I always find myself looking for how the pieces of reality fit together to make a big picture that is more than the sum of its parts. I only recently became aware of one such coincidence. On September 24, 1991, two momentous albums, Nevermind by Nirvana and Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers were released to applause so tumultuous it resounds today, 30 years later.
September 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the most horrendous terrorist attack on American soil. In a series of four coordinated attacks on the World Trade Center’s north and south towers, the west side of the Pentagon, and United Airlines flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, PA, almost 3,000 people lost their lives.
11’09”01: September 11 provides one of the first cinematic responses to the attacks as well as to terrorism around the world. In films lasting exactly 11 minutes, 9 seconds, and 1 frame, 11 acclaimed filmmakers from 11 different countries and cultures provide us with not only deeply touching, but also provocative and disturbing moments.
Early in November 1620, after a rough Atlantic crossing of about two months, an aging ship called Mayflower arrived in the coastal waters of what we today call Cape Cod Bay. By mid-December, the colonists had chosen a site they called Plymouth, which is about 40 miles south of the current city of Boston. Although English colonization had begun further south in the Chesapeake Bay area over a decade earlier – not to speak of even earlier Spanish and French efforts – the arrival of the Mayflower is frequently imagined by many in American mainstream society as the founding moment of the United States. Largely spurred and popularized by the Thanksgiving holiday, this founding myth all too often minimizes the impact of colonization on the indigenous peoples of the region; theirs is a history that hides in plain sight.
75 years ago, the world sighed in relief. After six gruesome years and over 70 million lost lives, World War II was finally over. May 8, 1945, marked both the end of a ruthless regime and the war in Europe. The Allied Forces had brought the German Wehrmacht to its knees, and at 11:01 p.m., the war in Europe was officially over. In the U.S. and the UK, the day is celebrated as “Victory in Europe Day,” and for decades, May 8 (and in some cases May 9) has been a holiday in various European countries – but not in Germany. However, for its 75th anniversary, the Day of Liberation has been declared a one-time holiday in Berlin.
In honor of the 30thanniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the American Studies Blog will remember this spectacular event in history through the eyes of people from around the world during the next few weeks.
When Everything Changed
“Your friend Jörg called. There’s something going on at the border.” “What border, the Hungarian?” I was taking off my coat thinking of the pictures I’d seen of Hungarian border patrols cutting the wire fence and letting East Germans through only a few months before. “He said you should turn on the TV.” And so I did, and there they were, the celebrating Berliners climbing on top of the wall, welcoming stunned East Berliners, joined in delirious joy for the first time in four decades. And here I was, almost 7,000 kilometers away in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I’d been teaching for the last four years.