Since R.E.M. called it quits in 2011, Michael Stipe has been everywhere and nowhere. In June, he released his first new recording since R.E.M., but he withheld his vocals. Prior to that, he joined artists’ call for “real net neutrality,” inducted Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and even sung in unexpected places, such as caroling with Stephen Colbert. For the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, The Guardian has published an essay by Stipe titled “Thoughts on the 21st Century,” with reflections on 9/11 and its aftermath.
The piece appears in a new book by Douglas Coupland, Everywhere Is Anywhere Is Anything Is Everything. “On the morning of 9/11, I was asleep in my apartment on Jane Street in the Meatpacking District, just north of Ground Zero,” Stipe writes. “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.”
Stipe also had pointed words for the public, government and media response to that day. “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,’” he writes. “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.”