R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe has published a lengthy essay today, the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, titled "Thoughts on the 21st Century". He describes his experiences as a New Yorker and said that the essay is inspired by artist/author Douglas Coupland's artwork about the attacks and everything that occurred after. It's a part of Coupland's new book Everwhere Is Anywhere Is Anything Is Everything and has appeared on The Guardian.

He begins the piece by offering his recollection of the tragic day:

"On the morning of 9/11, I was asleep in my apartment on Jane Street in the Meatpacking District, just north of Ground Zero. I received a phone call saying New York was under a terrorist attack and that I needed to leave as soon as possible. I sat up in bed and heard the sirens outside my bedroom window. I looked down at my naked legs, and said out loud, “Oh fuck.” My notion of home had suddenly changed."

After news had come to light that France did not support the United States' invasion of Iraq, many individuals in the country took it upon themselves to boycott the word 'France'. He gives his thoughts on this as well:

"Every time I see the Freedom Tower, I think of “freedom fries” – the term coined when the US wanted to invade Iraq, and France objected. Anything attached to the word “French” in the US was then relabelled with the word “freedom”: freedom toast, freedom fries, freedom kiss, for fuck’s sake. French wine was banned, French people were spat upon, their heads in photographs replaced with heads of weasels. Forget the Statue of Liberty and where it came from. It was a disastrous response—a horrid turn on the formerly leftist act of boycotting as protest. I’ve never been more embarrassed by my country, (except when we re-elected George W Bush and Dick Cheney). I largely blame the media for this egregious abuse of power and influence."

"The Freedom Tower was meant to inspire patriotism and instead embodies the darker sides of nationalism. The 9/11 attacks and the Bush administration’s response, buoyed by the media, and our shock at having finally been direct victims of terrorism, paved the way for a whole new take on “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” There was no longer any need to explain or publicly debate militaristic power, or the police state mindset. To do so was to be the opposite of a patriot."

Images of Osama Bin Laden and abstract portrayals of people jumping from buildings are some of the subjects in Coupland's artwork, which Stipe also gives his thoughts on:

" By evoking memories that can’t be deleted by wilful ignorance or overabstraction, Coupland reminds us that we all share a set of uncloseable doors in our minds, and through these opened doors, in an almost cartoon-like way, now march the NSA, Google, spooks, shadow governments, a lost, pathetic fourth estate, squandered militaristic might and rampant, terrifying nationalism. And while this procession occurs, we seem to be shrugging our shoulders and saying, “Eh, I’m still here! And I’m OK!! Let’s just get on with it!!!”"

"Support our troops!"

"Oh no … really? Is that who we are now? Blind, unquestioning, warlike? Are we that violent, that childish, that silly, that shallow? Are we that afraid of others? Of ourselves? Of the possibility of genuine change? Are we that easily swayed, that capable of defending “American interests”, whatever “American interests” means? Are we that racist, that terrified, that protective of an idea that we don’t even question what the idea has come to represent?"

The essay can be read in full here.