Never forget. I see that everywhere, and it makes me sad. If you were older than a child on 9/11, I doubt that it’s possible to forget what happened. The shock, the feeling of helplessness and numbness that followed. The fog of grief that clouded our lives for so long.
On this day, and all the 9/11’s between 2001 and now, I think of a lot, and it isn’t just what happened nine years ago.
But it’s a good place to start.
Nine years ago, I wasn’t married. I wasn’t a mother yet. I was just Whitney, a college student and cast member at Disneyland (and fiancee of TheBoy). That morning, I was preparing for a long day of classes. Our morning routines were set. TheBoy had the news on while he got ready, would leave for work and leave the TV on for me while I got ready for school.
He woke me early, telling me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. That was before anyone really knew what was going on, when they were still wondering if it was an accident. I was awake by the time the second plane hit, and it was clear that this wasn’t an accident.
He went to work and was turned around at the gate of the parking lot. I went to school, where halfway through my first class, someone came by to announce that classes were cancelled. Then we came home, and as most of the country did, watched television- unable to turn away.
I remember in the weeks that followed, watching Disneyland come to a stop if a plane flew overhead. I remember the fog that guests walked around in, unsure of whether or not they should be enjoying a vacation at all. Innocent jokes from the Jungle Cruise suddenly seemed inappropriate- that birthed my Discovery Channel tour. Facts seemed to be appreciated.
I admit, that I’ve become a bit cynical in the years that have followed. I watched our nation pull together immediately afterwards, as well as a great cooperative effort by American politicians. Politicians from both sides use it as a gimmick- rip off the band-aid so to speak in an effort to keep us from healing because that anger is useful.
More distressing though, I’ve listened to every day people use the term Muslim as some sort of condemnation of evil. Looking at people who might be of Middle-Eastern descent and wonder if they’re Muslim, using it as a synonym for terrorist. Even today, I’ve seen sane and typically rational people throw out statements like “Islam is a violent religion,” as a way to dehumanize an entire population of the world who follows that religion.
Right-wing pundits wonder whether or not President Obama is a Muslim. It’s done with a wink and a nod, so that we know that they want us to believe that he’s un-American and sides with the terrorists. (He’s not Muslim, and implying he’s on the side of the terrorists is ridiculous) However, it’s had the effect that we continue to wonder whether or not every Muslim person is secretly a terrorist.
Even the discussion on Park 51 (the so called “Ground Zero Mosque”) turned from whether or not it was legal (it is) or appropriate (there’s a Mosque closer to Ground Zero), into a speculation driven discussion about who is behind it. It went from being led by an imam who wanted to show the world that Muslims aren’t all like those terrorists, to possibly being funded by the terrorists. All based on speculation.
Yes, fundamentalist Muslims do believe in crazy punishments- in some nations and regions, beheadings, stonings and hangings do occur. Yes, they’ve gone to wars in the past in the name of Allah. So have Christians and Jews, in the name of God. Remember the Crusades? The Spanish Inquisition? If we’re accepting the Old Testament as being a historic document, there were plenty of battles and wars carried out in God’s name by the Israelites. It would seem that violence to show the might of a religion is merely part of its growth.
But following Islam doesn’t make you prone to violence. If it was, there would be millions of Muslims in America committing violent acts, or carrying out jihad. The people behind 9/11 and the continued war in Afghanistan are radicals. They are a small, but vocal minority.
The irony is that the more we let the hatred sweep over us and influence our actions, the more they have won. We begin to prove their assertion that the West is out to destroy Islam.
I look at the way our nation is behaving and it make me sick. It reminds me of a similar dark time, one that we tend to ignore ever happened. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, we like to remember that America banded together. We sacrificed for the troops, boys enlisted and we won the war. We also rounded up Japanese citizens living in the United States, and American citizens of Japanese descent and put them in internment camps. Think I’m over exaggerating in trying to link our past with our actions of today? More than once I’ve heard “round them up” in the same sentence as Muslims.
That wasn’t the end of our actions, though. No. Sixty-five years ago (and a month) we dropped two atomic bombs on the nation of Japan. In the span of four months following the bombing, approximately 250,000 people died- mostly civilians. People continued to die from cancers brought on by the radiation. They weren’t all vaporized as was theorized. Many of them died from radiation poisoning or burns and suffered. It’s a wound that is still felt deeply all these years later (more-so by those who saw it first hand). And we felt it was right. We had dehumanized a nation of people so thoroughly that it was okay, because they weren’t the same as us Americans.
I don’t like to get preachy, but having two small children who are growing up in a climate that’s increasingly filled with intolerance (and not just towards Muslims, but towards gays and Hispanics)… I feel it’s my duty to. I want them to grow up in a world that is better than the one I grew up in- not worse.
Please, let us look back on what happened nine years ago and not vow something as meaningless as “never forget.” Remembering an event is easy enough, especially something as tragic as that. Why don’t we try to actually do something? Why don’t we vow to open our hearts with love, peace and tolerance- to show the people in the countries occupied by these terrorists that we are good people, so that they themselves will ignore the loud idiots who convince people that war on the Western world is the only way. To silence those on our soil who want to divide for their own gain, because spreading hatred will get them ratings or votes. To ensure that we don’t follow a dark path like we followed not so long ago.
I’m going to end with hope. Because everything should, right? My two sweet boys, who have no idea what happened that day have been trying to cheer me up while writing this blog post. One sits in my lap and honks my nose, while the other gives me kisses and pretends to be Curious George. They know sadness, in the abstract way that little ones do, but they prefer to love and find joy in life. Which is how I’m going to spend the rest of the day.