Monday, September 12, 2011

Patriotism and Ripples In Time

10th anniversary and all that. Most everyone I know is done with that topic, sick of the news stuff, the repeated footage and all. Sick of it. I couldn't even really think of it all yesterday, on the actual date. It was a busy day with lots going on, and while I tried a few times to stop and pause and look inside for a bit of peace to hold it all in my heart and think on what it had meant then and all that's followed, it was too much to deal with in a small moment. It still is.

And yet. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years already. People who were kids then are grown adults, some of them; my 10 year old boys weren't yet one year old then. I found my blog entry from back then, stored away in the bowels of my long-neglected art site. When I wrote that post I was hunting for a flag to show, because it felt like one of the few outward ways I could display the sense of community I felt, that I was an American. That meant so much to me right then. I am an American and since that day I have felt keenly aware of it in a way I never had before that day. I do love this country. It's not a popular thing to say these days, and I was never very comfortable with rabid flag-waving patriots, but the way people pulled together to help each other and support each other on 9/11 and the days after made me proud of my fellow Americans.

I'm not a rabid patriot. I love the ideals we were taught in school as kids. I love the declaration that all people are created equal, that all people have a right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's a hard thing to put all of the values the founding fathers wrote down into practice, but it's damned well worth a good try. A hardened, hopeless sort of cynicism and outright hatred of others are more common now, ten years later. It's been a sad and frightening decline into various forms of hatred in many ways since 9/11.
The boys don't really understand all the hype about 9/11; after all they were babies then and it's ancient history to them. Any mention of it slips by them like flotsam in a river. But for me, it lurks in that same water like a wooden spear that conceals a whole forest of wrecks underneath, waiting to snag an unwary traveller.

I followed a link to a post talking about 9/11 just today, and I'll admit the tone of it really set my teeth on edge. Among other things, the writer says:
"No, we talked about our feelings. Americans were bloated with empathy in the weeks after 9/11. But something fatal was happening: as a nation, we were consenting to pursue vengeance over mercy. We were deciding – with the help of all that deeply feeling propaganda on our television sets – that the only human suffering that mattered was American."

So sharing our feelings was wrong? Bloated with empathy? That's insulting and demeaning to anyone who had strong feelings about what happened, and let's get real-- many if not all of us did. He goes on to compare this one incident, this tragedy with its one-time loss of life, to be meager on the scale of overall human loss of life. And on a relative scale, it is. I can understand that argument. But mourning or marking the anniversary of a tragedy of this scale, this impact on an entire country, does not devalue other losses; tragic events in other countries, or even individual losses that people suffer. The media may turn it into a circus, but despite all of the hype, it doesn't negate or diminish the impact it had on us as individuals and the country as a whole. Of course we need to help our fellow men and women and right the wrongs and suffering that happen all around us, around the world. But an epic tragedy of this nature does deserve to be remembered, explained to those little kids who were babies, who don't understand its importance and the effects it is still having on our country. It's worthy of looking at and observing the ripples it has had and recognizing mistakes or things done right, and that changes need to happen to move on and grow and heal from it.

This writer says 'we were consenting to pursue vengeance'. I don't recall ever consenting to pursue vengeance in any form. And I sure as hell never decided that the only human suffering worth considering or trying to fix was American. I was, however, feeling a real connection with other people, on an individual and community-wide, country-wide scale, that hasn't happened since. I felt so completely that we were all connected, all together, all one family. I felt that we had a choice in front of us, to pull together. This country of stubborn individualists felt their connectedness to one another. We could have and should have used that close sense of brotherhood, and many did, on a grass-roots level, but the leadership of the country would not, could not, pull together or figure out what to do to deal with such a catastrophe. Leadership failed in such a huge and unimaginably long-lasting way, and actively sabotaged grass-roots efforts to pull together. My view is that as a country, we've never really recovered from what happened. So I suppose in that way Osama bin Laden succeeded.

I can understand people being sick of having the whole thing stuffed down their throats. The same footage endlessly shown over and over. I haven't watched any TV coverage at all, this anniversary or any other since that day. Maybe the media is indeed ghoulish, wanting to use that helpless inability to look away from a horrific event to boost their ratings. Maybe also part of the notion is that if we watch those carefully selected, carefully edited bits over and over it'll get easier to deal with, but of course it's more like picking at an open wound.  We haven't gained much perspective over ten years, really, but the media has managed to edit the experience down to certain dramatic portions and sound bytes and to carefully forget select parts of that day and the aftermath. Maybe if we were allowed to know and talk about some of the unspoken things, it could all be faced in the open, rather than denied and buried to fester. We feel the reverberations through all the weird things this country has been going through in the last ten years, but the wounds from that day's actions and the subsequent reactions haven't really healed. 

I'm choosing to focus on the positive ways that people pulled together to help each other in an unimaginable crisis situation. Like this:
Or this wonderful article, sent to me by Allysson. I will never forget the way that people all over the world at that time felt the shock, the loss, the tragedy, and they sent their love and support to Americans. We've lost that support since, for all the wrong reasons, but it was an amazing and wonderful thing, to feel that all over the world, people were together. There was an amazing outpouring of love towards this country. I keep hoping that we can all pull back together somehow, and that it doesn't take an immense and sudden tragedy to make it happen, and that we can hold onto that sense of togetherness. I can hope.
Just walk towards the light, I keep thinking towards everyone. If we can just hold hands and walk out of the darkness together, we'll see the green grass and the ocean and that blue, blue sky...

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