As I write this new column, it’s the afternoon of September 11th. There’s been a barrage of coverage about the 11th anniversary of 9/11. The local talk radio station went wall to wall with their replay of that horrible day, the news station I work at has covered speeches and had remarks from people who people seem to expect remarks from, and Facebook seems to have decided to take a one day vacation from it’s normal posts about the election and other nonsense to spend the daylight hours presenting pictures of firemen, etc saying things like “We will never forget.” Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not being facetious or glib. I understand that the tragedy of 9/11 is probably the most significant event that will ever take place in my lifetime. Already it’s reshaped the Middle East, destroyed the American psyche and rewritten history books whose text had been sealed for decades. I do get it.
On days like today though, when I see the millionth post about Never Forgetting my mind wanders and I begin thinking of a few different things. I’m going to share those with you now. First of all, I wonder if at some point the catharsis will be ended and our nation will be healed. I don’t live in New York, I have friends that do and some of those people were touched on that horrible day in a very real way. To them I can’t imagine the dread that is felt each time the date is neared on the calendar. That being said the local sports radio station here in Pittsburgh sent what I consider a lot of radio broadcast time talking about and remembering the day. At what point does this sort of national conversation hurt more than help the healing. Let me explain a little further, my son is seven. He obviously wasn’t alive on 9/11. His elementary school is having a red, white and blue day. This forces parents like me to explain to my son when he asks why the school is having such a day. He now has to attempt to understand and process the information that horrible people in a far off part of the world hate him and us for no reason other than the fact that he is American and that he may, gasp, actually have a Jewish friend. It opens wounds he didn’t know he has. (As an added aside it forces a patriotism on my son that I may not want him to have to participate in without his real understanding of what that word means.) When do we acknowledge there was a tragedy but decide to move beyond the replay of the events as they took place minute by minute and mark the day as a holiday or with a few minutes of silence? I don’t believe the generation that felt the sting of Pearl Harbor relived it every year and as a result they were able to move beyond it. When will decide it’s time to move beyond this very real, very tragic event?
Another thing I’ve noticed is the number of mild-mannered, intelligent people I know who were clear-headed about world events or ambivalent at best about world events who since 9/11 have become extremely conservative and extremely ideological in their thinking. These people are now convinced it’s America’s duty to protect freedom (freedom as they understand it), to wipe out tyranny (tyranny as they understand it), to right the world and prepare it for God’s return (God as they understand him), to torture, maim, kill and destroy those who wish to hurt America and be extension them and their family (hurt America as they see it, and that goes for you Democrats, or as they see it Socialists). These people whose knowledge of world events up to this point was that there was a cold war, but they didn’t understand why no one put on a coat while fighting. These people now have their world views shaped by the Beck’s and Hannity’ of the world and the world is a much worse place because of it!
The last thought I had is that there’s a lot of focus on 9/11 and that’s probably for good reason but maybe the focus should be on 9/10. What do I mean by that? Well, on a personal level we should be concerned with the people we were on 9/10 and the people we were on 7/3/04 or another random date removed from the tragedy of that awful day. Everyone believed in we were all in this together on 9/11, everyone took the hand of their neighbor on 9/12, everyone agreed to help each other on 9/13, everyone felt it necessary to look beyond a person’s skin to their character on 9/14—but what did they think on 9/10? How did they treat their fellow-man? What have they reverted to years later? What have they become? Another reason that maybe it’s not necessary to stay stuck carrying the tragedy of 9/11 as a nation for eternity. Maybe now is the time we move beyond it and decide to become a new people, ones who will take the lessons and grow.
I truly do understand, I wasn’t touched by the tragedy of this horrible event in a truly personal way like many. No one in my family was murdered, I didn’t live in NY, I wasn’t forced to wait weeks and months to find out if someone I loved was still alive. I watched the events in real-time but that isn’t the same, I felt the horror and mourned the tragedy but that isn’t the same. I can’t and won’t co-op the grief of these heroic people and what they’ve endured. Maybe now though it’s time to let these people mourn in private while we as a nation decide to move to the next state of the bereavement process.