When It’s Not a Bomb: “911 AM (Rudy Giuliani)” by MC Lars & YTCracker

April 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm, by

I remember 9/11 very clearly.

After nearly 3,000 people were murdered on September 11, 2001, my country of birth somehow felt no safer than Israel, my other home.

With 9/11 falling a year into Israel’s second Intifada, the USA and Israel acted like close allies and close friends, understanding each other’s pain, seeking to learn from one other.

And they did. Over time, American airports, cops and security officials turned to experts on Israeli airport security, reputedly the most foolproof security system in the world.

Americans took every measure to prevent another 9/11 or any further terrorist activities in the USA. And no act of terror as massive has taken place in the US since 9/11, so the United States kinda won the War On Terror.

But in a way, they also lost.

Pat-downs at airport security and limitations of liquid carry-on items during flights prove just how deeply terrorists injected fear into American culture.

On The Digital Gangster LP, an epic collection of “laptop rapper” MC Lars’ collaborations with other nerdcore artists, MC Lars and YTCracker feature Doctor Popular (a.k.a. “Doc Pop”) on a satire of how terror has changed American life: “911 AM (Rudy Giuliani).”

Rapping over a victorious synthesizer with the timbre of a Game Boy, our nerdcore heroes name different items that cops and security guards might deem suspicious even though they are everyday objects.

While the lyrics of the song are very clever, this satire could have been in better taste had these digital gangsters not linked national insecurities to the undeniable tragedy of 9/11.

Rapping “9:11” over and over again in the chorus (the only other word of the chorus being “Giuliani“), the rappers juxtapose a blurry memory of a national tragedy with a satire of precautions a nation has taken to prevent further tragedy.

The memory of 9/11 is a bit uncalled for when the verses deal so effectively and so humorously with iPods, iPhones, speakers, and toothpaste being confused for a bomb (“This is not a bomb. It’s a tube of toothpaste,” says YTCracker. “But I’ll throw it out and let it go to waste.”).

But I feel that a few lines of the song truly leave the listener with a bad taste. “I thought I’d… make it clear,” raps MC Lars. “I crash lyrics into buildings every single year. / Is it in good taste? Well, that’s still unclear.” And later, MC Lars recalls a former classmate who went off to Iraq, but “they brought his dead body home in a baggie.”

There’s a serious insensitivity to the dead throughout the song. Yes, airport security is ridiculous, but the dangers and deaths it prevents are no laughing matter.

Tonight begins Yom Ha-Zikkaron–Israeli Memorial Day–and tomorrow night begins Yom Ha-Atzma’ut–Israeli Independence Day.

Israelis mourn their nation’s losses and celebrate their nation’s advances all within the same 48-hour time span.

With moments of silence and ceremonies across the whole nation, Yom Ha-Zikkaron is a very serious day, taken very seriously. And with wild parties throughout the nation, Yom Ha-Atzma’ut is a very seriously fun day.

It might boggle the American mind that the people who brought Americans the tools for over-obsessive airport security can be the same people who respect intense, nationwide security measures (malls, bus stations, government buildings, national religious sites, banks and large super markets often have security guards).

And it might also boggle the American mind that Israelis also really know how to have fun. Israel was recently ranked by the United Nations as the 14th happiest country in the world. (I’m not sure how you measure that sort of thing though to be honest.)

Israelis understand and experience the emotional spectrum in a way that Americans rarely do. For MC Lars: 9/11 is a chorus; a dead soldier is brought home, like a goldfish, “in a baggie;” and airport security is a nuisance.

While I suspect that “911 AM (Rudy Giuliani)” is a song that can resonate with many Americans, it doesn’t resonate with me as a Zionist.

For me, it is essential to respect security measures that take into account a whole history of disguised bombs. Though Americans have seen few cases of bombs in bikes or phones, Israelis have seen enough of these to warrant intense security.

The thought of a dead soldier hits many Israelis close to home because enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces is mandatory for all Jewish Israelis. You or any of your relatives–siblings or children–could be a dead soldier not too long after high school. Imagining your daughter coming home in a “baggie” is ridiculous and demeaning towards understanding the nobility of maintaining a defense force (no matter your view on the politics of specific missions).

So, I struggle with the cheery background music and the silly verses with the insensitive language on “911 AM (Rudy Guiliani).”

MC Lars could learn from Yom Ha-Zikkaron: recalling the tragically dead is no time for mockery or victory music. There will be a time to laugh and a time to celebrate, and it will come after you first learn to mourn the harsh reality that lets you laugh tomorrow.

It’s a shame that Americans thought that the only thing Israelis could teach them to do better is to manage security.

“911 AM (Rudy Guiliani)” reminds me how Israelis could have also taught Americans when it’s time to cry and when it’s time to smile.

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