Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 Ten Years On

I was sleeping in my apartment in Falls Church, Virginia when I was awoken by a phone call. It was my ex-girlfriend who had moved out recently enough that the scars were still fresh. A phone call like that is rarely a good sign.

Had I been looking out the window just minutes earlier I might have been able to see the plane heading on its death trajectory toward the Pentagon. I spent the day out at the ex girlfriend's apartment further out on I-66 from my relatively inner suburb. The highway was quiet though there was a lot of talk about whether or not more attacks were to come, talk that would continue for days and weeks and months and years.

It is too easy to say that 9/11 changed everything but it surely changed a lot. And I avoided most of the televised commemorations during the football games today because it seems that in too many quarters bombast has become confused with remembrance and people too often try to play a game of more-maudlin-than-thou, a form of showy commemoration theater that is really about the person doing the showing.

I think about 9/11 sometimes when I hear the Sarah Palins dividing the country along the lines of real Americans and whoever their implied opposite is. New York City, and greater Washington, DC were the targets on 9/11. The east coast. More than 2900 Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom lived their lives in the America that Sarah Palin scorns for ratings, perished on that horrible Tuesday morning. It's useful to say that we were all victims on that day but of course some paid a far greater price than others.

9/11 became politicized as so much has in the past decade or so. I suppose I'm doing so now. President Bush handled those first few days when we were scared and angry and confused as well as anyone could have and there seemed to be a time when a terrible event might have united us as a country for the long run. Politics could have gone on but without quite the edge and without the implication that the person who thinks differently from you is somehow an enemy. That new era of consensus politics never came to pass and if anything things got more poisonous as 9/11 receded into the stuff of commemoration.

We all hope that we never experience an event of that magnitude again. But even as people blurt out or remind us on bumper stickers never to forget we seem to have forgotten much of the essence of what it is that we are not to forget. No one who lived through it will ever forget 9/11 and those who have tried to claim that day for their own agenda tend to be the most convinced that they need to remind us. I just wish we could do a better job of remembering exactly what we are not supposed to forget.

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