Here’s a question for September 11, 2013. Is remembering this day in 2001 when terrorists attacked our nation a good and helpful thing or a bad and harmful thing?
As one friend of mine pointed out on Facebook, for those of us who were old enough in 2001 to be aware of what was happening, remembering is an inescapable thing. How could we forget, short of losing our cognitive ability even to recall to mind that overwhelming day?
I suggest that remembering 9-11 means more than one thing and that what matters is how and toward what end we do our remembering. In what direction does our act of recalling that day take us?
Does it make us more aware of the sufferings, humiliations, and griefs of others in our world? Within the United States, “others” means people not of our own family, social group, or “type” as we type ourselves in contrast with people who somehow differ from us. Beyond this nation, “others” means people of other lands and nations, other religions and economic systems, other cultures and languages. Has our day of horror taught us to be more understanding and compassionate?
Or does remembering make us more self-centered, isolated, fearful, and belligerent? Does it constrict our sense of shared humanity and focus our attention and concern more narrowly upon our safety, prosperity, and national interests?
Has our concept of “us” widened since September 11, 2001, or are we becoming more them-versus-us than ever? What have we done and what are we continuing to do with the horror, grief, anger, frustration, and desperation we remember very well?