Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001 — Ten years later


It was 2008 that I wrote a post entitled Mourning Has To End At Some Point regarding the attacks on the USA on September 11, 2001. I think it still stands up 3 years later.
That title brings the imagery of a funeral to the date that has come to be one thing only, the day we were attacked.
My Facebook stream is filled with posts that end with, “We Will Never Forget.” A week a year we remember it publicly, putting ashes in our hair and memorializing the things that happened today 10 years ago. This post isn’t about today. There is an awful lot of stuff out there about today. We all mourn, memorialize, and remember in our own way. I get that and I don’t make any judgement on any of that. The attacks we as a country suffered were something that everybody experienced in their own way.
But.
The weeks after the attacks the country was shocked, stunned, and came together in a catharsis of grief, shock, and anger expressed as a brief period of ultra-patriotism, pride, and outrage.
After the funereal meats were put away, the dishes cleared, and the flowers wilted we, as a country, not specifically you and me, but all of us, began to do what so often happens after a funeral. The death here was the death of a period of growth, optimism, wide-eyed innocence about our own invulnerability… after the immediacy of the funeral was over we split up… we fractured like a family after a funeral of a wealthy patriarch who had no will.
People on the left and right of the political spectrum took the eagle as their totem and began to beat everybody else with how they were the real Americans, the real inheritors of the standard erected by those three emergency responders on ground zero in what is now an iconic image of that day. I choose that image as the image for the post, not the image of the towers burning as DrudgeReport.com did. The optimism of those men raising our flag, all of our flag, on that day, in the clouds of dust and smoke… that image is one of hope, of fighting on, of us saying “NO!” to everything the terrorists were trying to say. That’s the image I hold in my mind 10 years later.
Sadly, the eagles, the American Eagle that each side claims as their own has turned into a vulture picking on the bones of who we were before.  They no longer think of us collectively, but in an US vs THEM way that is akin to one side of a family insisting on the dining room set because Uncle Sam promised it to them, or so they say while the other side insists they’d been told the same thing. The family that is our country is tearing itself apart in a way the terrorists couldn’t by tearing down buildings and killing people. The family that is our country is allowing those who represent us, to scrabble for the scraps of the legacy of the world before we were attacked at the expense of the other side of the aisle. There can be no victory, we are told, unless the other side loses. There can be no progress in any direction if the direction isn’t to the left or to the right, depending on who is doing the talking.
Enough of the sides. If we don’t exist as a family, together, even when we disagree with each other, we don’t exist, period. Benjamin Franklin said it years ago when he said, “We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” We’re facing that choice today as a country. As we tear apart our country ourselves, 10 years after the terrorists tried to do it TO us we have to make up our minds to exist as a country, and sometimes we will have to not win at the expense of everyone else on the playing field. There are times, in a family when we have to let someone else have the dining room set because the family is worth more than the dining room self is to us.
So, today, 10 years later, I’d like to remind people not that the buildings fell, but that the other iconic image of that was of our flag being raised… of 3 men saying the buildings fell but we’re still here, one nation, one country, one huge group of people with disparate ideas but one flag and one hope, that tomorrow is better than today, and we’re willing to do what we can to make it that way… even if it means, sometimes, letting someone else having the dining room set.
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