Thoughtful Revolution

Thoughts on 9/11: In Memoriam

Yesterday, September 11, 2009, was the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.  Before I start running my mouth, it’s worth saying: no matter what I think, or what anyone thinks, on a political or ideological level, the event 8 years ago yesterday was indeed a tragedy.  We lost countless people that day, and countless people have been lost since that day.  The qualifier “American” is not needed.  It is not nearly as important that we lost Americans (and, certainly, it isn’t only Americans who have died either on the day or in its aftermath) than that we lost people.  On a human scale, when you think about every parent who has lost a child, every child who has lost a parent, every lover who has lost a lover, such an event is devastating no matter through what lens you choose to view it.  Rest in peace.

 All that, of course, begs the question: is the word “anniversary” really appropriate?  Or, as some thoughtlessly labeled it yesterday, “holiday?”  Both words are ones we use in nostalgic or celebratory circumstances, often followed by “party.”  So no, neither term is really appropriate — but we lack a term in our lexicon that would be (as evidenced by Pearl Harbor Day and Veterans Day, both of which are called “holidays” more often than is comfortable).  And, again following the example of Veterans Day, the application of these terms, when coupled with the accumulation of time, can trivialize a very serious occasion into “yay-we-get-school-off-let’s-have-a-barbecue.”  So I propose we come up with a new term, something that adequately describes commemoration without celebration or undue bias.  Any ideas?

And speaking of undue bias, I saw something very disturbing in the Washington Post yesterday morning.  Now I was not disturbed by any of the “commemorative articles.”  I was a little bit skeptical about the curriculum developed to teach students about 9/11, not because I don’t think it’s a great idea, but because I worry that teaching it in a package centered around one day will exclude the ramifications and surrounding history that are so important to an understanding of the event.   But what I found extraordinarily disturbing was Charles Krauthammer’s editorial on the Van Jones saga, in which the conservative Krauthammer used the elegiac rhetoric of 9/11 commemoration to justify the resignation of a relatively minor (and very liberal) federal appointee.  While maybe not quite as off-putting as Richard Cohen’s Titus Andronicus moment two days ago, this column was symbolic of an endemic, and much-precedented, problem with the way we view 9/11.  It’s no secret that the tragedy is, more often than not, used as a tool for crass political gain.  And no matter your views on Obama, or Bush, or Van Jones, or the many theories circling about the tragedy itself, it is thoroughly inappropriate to deploy the terminology of grief for an ultimately petty political maneuver.  Those who died on September 11, 2001 were not just part of one tragic clump: they were individuals, each and every one, with families and lovers and ideals and favorite TV shows.  And to wield their memory as a tool for one’s own advancement, particularly when considering the vastly different political views they all must have held, is an offense to their memory.  Please, Mr. Krauthammer, if you mourn loudly, mourn honestly — and don’t tack that mourning onto the end of a political opinion.  Not only is that wrong, it’s entirely disrespectful.


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  1. * Hannah says:

    Thing One: The tragedy is so much larger if you think about it in terms of relationships. Think of all of the people who are in your life. A few people you are close to, more that you’re friends with, and many more who maybe you see every day, talk to, who are a small part of your life, but still a signifigant part. When you see each other in class, at work, or in your neighborhood, you can say to yourself “Yes, things are normal, things are okay.” Each person who died in the buildings and on the planes had dozens of these relationships, and they all disappeared with them. All of those countless aquaintences, peers, and coworkers were affected, their sense of security shaken.

    I definitely agree with you about the “politics of fear”. It’s so frusterating, because any argument made against someone utilizing 9/11 has to be made as if you’re walking on egg-shells.

    Also: How can I subscribe so I get notifications when you update?

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 10 months ago
  2. * Dirty Commie says:

    I suppose we could call it national day of morning, or refer to it by a specific name like the Palestinians refer to the “Nakba”

    However, I don’t think it s likely that 9/11 won’t be commercialized. In 30 or so years ( maybe less) there will be 9/11 day sales and barbecues just like memorial day. American culture is the most commercial in the world and as a people we don’t like sad things. I’m not happy about it, but this will be another flag waving national holiday.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 10 months ago
  3. * Stefan says:

    The only name I can think of is “9/11 remembrance day, and that just falls right back into the whole holiday issue.

    There may be issue with the way we refer to the tragedy in general: 9/11. The names of most tragedies are somewhat descriptive, and give someone with no knowledge of it an impression of what happened. (e.g. the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Holocaust, etc.). 9/11 only refers to the date, giving no context as to what happened or why it’s important. It’s not a problem now, seeing as 9/11 is common knowledge, but it may be something that harms understanding in the future.

    This is probably a non-issue, but worth nothing none the less.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 10 months ago
    • * thoughtfulrevolution says:

      Actually, I think that’s a terrific point. Sadly, the term “9/11” is so ingrained in our consciousness that there can really be no renaming it, which is fine for us but rather unfortunate for our grandchildren.

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 10 months ago

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