In the first few years after the 9/11 attacks, I wrote reflections about the day things happened and what it meant to me. I think everyone did for a while. I stopped after a while. Part of the reason was that my memories of the day is colored with anger. I I woke up that day after everything was over, and in searching around trying to get some sense of what was going I found too much wrath surrounding it. From a woman radio caller saying “Bomb them!” along with the radio host not even knowing who “they” were. The images of policemen running–not into the Towers, but towards a mosque that was about to be overrun by an angry mob. Harsh words from friends who were in the area when I tried to argue for calm heads and peace. Jingoism wrapped in patriotism. It bothered me to this day; and it never fully occurred to me until today. A Unitarian friend of mine wrote his own reflection of 9/11 on Facebook today as he has often done, but this one struck me; it said everything I’ve been feeling for a while. I asked if I could repost it on my blog, and he agreed. What he wrote is below. Very moving, very potent and very necessary.
So today I am told to remember. But remember what?
Spending a morning being told my hometown was in flames, destroyed, buildings family had worked in in the past, that I had hiked around as a Cub Scout or biked around as a kid, in ruins? Or the politicians, pundits, people in small towns and here in the Midwest that I’ve met, both before or after that day, who have told me how horrible my hometown and New York City were. How they were worthless, full of the worst of humanity. How they never gave a damn about my hometown, my family, my neighbors, my friends, even laughed as we bled and died in the streets during the crack wars, and still in general will shit talk my city; right up until it becomes politically advantageous to laud it.
Do I remember when they told us that after that day fourteen years ago, it was the “death of insincerity?” Or how it came back, worse than ever, in jaded sarcasm, disdain, mocking of those wronged or hurt, a culture that devalues compassion.
Do I remember George W. Bush standing next to a local D.C. Imam, a couple days after the attack, telling us that Muslims were our friends, our neighbors and our fellow Americans? Or do I remember the attacks that continue on Muslims to this day, along with Hindus and Sikhs, because “they’re the terrorists,” while folks like Dylann Roof continue to go on internet hate boards and advocate for killing American citizens?
Do I remember when cops, firefighters and first-responders were heroes? Or that we now will defund them at every turn, because taxes are bad, and they’re “greedy moochers” like my and other governors want me to believe? That we expect them to do their jobs, under-funded, under-staffed, poorly equipped, some even living with PTSD, and yell at them if they want to unionize?
Do I remember that we used what happened fourteen years ago today as a pretext to wage “preemptive” war on Iraq? That there were no WMDs found in the end? That George H. W. Bush had warned years earlier that invading that country would unleash an insurgency, destabilize the region and open a Pandora’s box of trouble? Or when hearing the sabre-rattling, my conservative, Army veteran father opining that these were the exact same type of bastards who got us into ‘Nam? Do I remember “you’re either with us or against us,” and vilifying the country of my godmother’s birth for thinking invading Iraq was a bad idea. Even renaming French fries “freedom fries.” Do I remember that using as pretext wanting to end a brutal state that suppresses dissent, especially from its minorities, even killing innocent civilians, was all fine and good as a reason to go to war; but the same tactics we deplored to much we had to invade another country for, are fine in places like Baltimore and Ferguson?
Do I remember how we “love freedom,” or how the same people who told us that said we needed the Patriot Act?
Do I remember that the number of civilians killed in Iraq dwarfs the number of civilians who died in the World Trade Center towers?
Do I remember that at this point, we’ve had more of our veterans who went and fought in both wars like we asked them to have committed suicide in numbers that also dwarf the civilians we lost fourteen years ago today?
Do I remember how many veterans live homeless now, or are on food stamps? Or do I remember how we, who lived comfortable and cushy while we asked them to go through hell, call them “lazy” and “moochers” now. Or perhaps I remember how many times a certain group of politicians have voted against helping veterans – even when a former lion of their party and WWII veteran came to the Senate floor in a wheel chair to implore them to do so?
Do I remember that some of the same people who were hell bent for leather to have us go into Iraq, are now advocating for us to go into Iran, a country three times Iraq’s geographic size? And create more veterans, that they’ll ignore when they come back.
Do I remember that “the terrorists hate us for our freedom?” Or that when women exercise that freedom, they’re called sluts; when non-violent black protesters exercise that freedom, they’re called thugs; that trans people who have no interest in hurting anyone and just want to live their lives are to be demonized; that gay couples wanting to get married is somehow a threat to other folks’ marriages; when atheist or pagan friends say they’re not Christian, they’re somehow threatening someone else’s faith?
Do I remember that “we are a nation of many faiths, governed by laws, not one particular religion?” Or that if I believe something and you don’t, I get to force you to act in accordance with my beliefs, especially if I serve you in a restaurant or as a public clerk, and cry “religious discrimination!” if you have a problem with it?
So you want me to remember.
Ok. I do.