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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I didn't feel like posting this on the day (wasn't up to the hate mail I was bound to receive), so here it is...


Ten years.

You can't forget the day even if you want to.

I will remember the victims. They deserve respect. And there's the other side of remembrance. I don't think I want to see any "specials" or "go" to a Facebook memorial service, though. It's complicated; it brings back so many feelings and emotions. I have feelings shared by most, but also ones probably not felt or understood by many, which is why I'm posting a day late. I couldn't even decide if I wanted to post this. Everyone's doing/posting the never forget, America is awesome stuff and that just wasn't my experience.

I feel like the day of remembrance was stolen- by the disappointment I felt in the then president and the country in general in the events that followed; by the massive tragedy we caused in Iraq; and by replacing and renewing the Cold War hatred for all things Russian with hatred and or suspicion of Arabs and Muslims (and those who happen to look (anything) like them). It cannot and will not ever be just about the victims because of the way we reacted.

Like everyone in moments like these, I remember first where I was on that day at that time- about a year into my first real job, pretty green still, an hour into the workday. A crowd gathered by the radio, trying to see what's happening and if it's for real. It was and we were in shock. There was the fear there'd be more attacks in NY and maybe even the country. How big was this thing? Coinciding with this and after this, (for me) was the fear for Muslims' and Arabs' (and as it turns out people with brown skin since no one knows anything about the Middle East...) safety if it was determined that Muslims or Arabs are actually responsible. This time, the knee-jerk report was right. Saudis. What will this mean for me, my future husband's family, their friends and family, and our (future) kids? I didn't know then that we'd be conned into a war with Iraq, so while Japanese internment camps were in the far reaches of my mind, I had hope that we were better than that and learned something from the past. This is America, after all. We don't do that. If I knew then what I know now about Bush's intent, methods and determination to be The Decider rather than right, I would have been terrified for them rather than just concerned about the unknown.

Thankfully, there were no internment camps for Arabs and Muslims. Unfortunately, similar things did happen- extraordinary rendition and Guantanamo, torture and prison scandals. Nothing (except the occasional off hand comment or unfortunate email) happened to anyone I know, but things definitely happened and attitudes shifted: "Patriot Act," NSEERS, wiretapping, FBI mosque crawling, people removed from planes for "talking foreign" or wearing a turban (or "Muslim garb" or having a certain shade of hair and skin), violence, graffiti, and then the general discomfort with Arabs and Muslims and language one hears in the news and in general conversation that was shocking ten years ago and today we think is normal, given the times (Juan Williams, response to Juan Williams, "Ground Zero Mosque").

9/11 is also ironically inextricably linked to Iraq. We (or at least a handful of Bush cronies, anyway) started our march to Iraq on this day as it turns out, which is kind of interesting and equally tragic in that Iraqis had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. I remember Americans hungry for revenge, not justice, saying unbelievably hateful things about Muslims and Arabs on all the radio programs. People wanted not just to catch the mastermind, but wanted an equal or greater number of people to suffer or die because of what happened to us. Where did the America I knew and respected go? I had expected us to take the high road and not just lash out. I was disappointed. I remember American flags waving in support of the unnecessary war on Iraq. Afghanistan I thought was inevitable, even if it wasn't the best choice- carpet bombing a country whose population and government didn't even want the group associated with the 9/11 hijackers to be there. I thought Iraq was all posturing and wasn't really going to happen. This is America and we don't do that. And then it happened with no questions asked. Since when did we not question authority? The silence was deafening; it cost us credibility and soldiers lives and many, many innocent Iraqi lives. I hope people take some time to remember those victims as well. We could have taken all the support and sympathy of all nations to be a leader in any way possible- getting off oil, as a Time author puts forward- but instead we chose reckless, senseless all out war on something no one can possibly eradicate. We were like a pack of rabid dogs, opportunistic and deadly. 9/11 was bad enough and then we repaid senseless violence with more senseless violence on innocent people.

I guess this is not really your traditional moving, inspirational tribute. Nor is it a slogan like "never forget" that to my mind leaves to the imagination what is not to be forgotten- the victims, hatred for Arabs, hatred for Islam, the fury you felt that day so that you can go in and lay waste to other countries, the patriotism you felt that was based in vengeance? It's my reflection on my own experience and what I saw. It is my own form of tribute to see how far we've come- or not- and how we can do better.

On a positive note, I suppose it has made me more aware of issues around peace and justice (or injustice as the case may be). I do like the push to make it a day of service and hope that continues.

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