In the days after September 11th, 2001, and continuing until now, the national guard and other military personnel fanned out around New York City. Automatic rifles slung over their camouflaged shoulders, they "guarded" New York City's transportation stations, vital corners and thoroughfares, marquee buildings, and each and every bridge and tunnel entrance. Their comportment was usually cordial and rarely vigilant. Exuding the antithesis of an urban sensibility, they complemented the beefy boredom of the police who usually stood nearby, with an almost surreal sense of incredulity; not just "Why am I here?" but a sort of bafflement that anyone would even think they knew how to get to an uptown train. I've grown accustomed to their presence — frighteningly so — but still can't get over their costumes. Green, woodsy camouflage. To blend with Penn Station?!
There is of course an exacting science (and art) of camouflage that involves close study of particular landscapes and the production of patterns that will fade into them so that they may be inhabited by stealth. The U.S. military has dozens of camouflage variants for all manner of apparel, equipment, vessels, and vehicles. But in New York City the military dresses not like bricks or pizza or granite, but in forest and jungle and sometimes Desert Storm fatigues. I walk around wondering why.
In the security state authorized and reinforced (but not ushered in) by September 11th, there has been an explosion of surveillance cameras and other mechanisms of vigilance in and around New York City.
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This work was originally published in Prospects, available at href="https://doi.org/10.1017/S0361233300001952">https://doi.org/10.1017/S0361233300001952.