Like every American, I know exactly that today is the twelfth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It’s going to be a somber day with flags at half-staff and everyone in shades of red, white or blue. People will reflect on what it means to be an American — and politicians will use the tragedy to further their own political agendas.
Whether Democrat or Republican, politicians will be waving the bloody shirt, riling up crowds with stirring speeches and getting the mob mad with bloodlust. They will not be calling for reflection, but vengeance, whether against Al-Qaeda, Muslims in general, Syrians, Obama, gays or the other party. It’s a well-known tactic to elicit pathos, a twenty-first century cry of, “Remember the Alamo!” And it’s a disgusting, cowardly, cheap and dirty trick.
The attacks happened twelve years ago, and while they were heinous, it’s time to find a new rallying cry for your speech. The politics of the War on Terror have gone on long enough.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t commemorate the day; it was a tragic day, thousands of innocent men, women, children and rescue workers were callously murdered on American soil, and our history has been irrevocably changed. However, as a nation in mourning, the politicians have forgotten the most important part of the grieving process: letting go and moving on.
Suppose that today a prominent politician called for war with Japan over Pearl Harbor, or war with Mexico over the Alamo. Would anyone support him? Most Americans probably wouldn’t because those events happened a long time ago. Twelve years isn’t as long a time as one-hundred-seventy-seven or even sixty-two years ago, but it’s time to let go. It’s not the same thing as forgetting, not by a long shot, but it’s time for the politicians to stop using 9/11 as a cheap ploy to elicit pathos.
On a personal note, using 9/11 as a political tactic is insulting and offensive to the families of victims and to survivors; almost as much as those commemorative coins advertised on TV (sadly, those coins do exist). I didn’t lose any family members or friends to the attacks, but if I had, I would be sickened by the news replaying footage of the day they died. The families have already lost so much; why do they have to relive that tragedy every year? When people die and it isn’t national news or a mass murder, the families are left to mourn in privacy, and then, as the years pass, the anniversary of the death becomes less of an occasion for mourning and more of a day to remember; to focus on the person’s life, the way he laughed, the kind of coffee she loved. As long as the politicians wave the bloody shirt, the victims’ families will never get that chance—that day will always be the day their fiancée or son became a gruesome statistic.
If the politicians stopped calling for blood, we wouldn’t forget 9/11, but it would be more solemn than sad, an occasion for reverence and reflection, much like Memorial Day. I don’t see any Patriots’ Day vacations or sporting events occurring on that day in the future, but candlelight vigils, bouquets of flowers at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, a nationwide moment of silence and flags at half-staff would be appropriate.
Vengeance satisfies nothing, and calling for blood only forces the tragedy into the faces of the survivors and families.
As a nation, we all went through four of the five stages of mourning long ago. When the first plane crashed into the first tower, we were in denial that it could have been anything but an accident. After the second tower and the Pentagon, we were depressed, going to church and holding hands with complete strangers while many of us, than mere children, saw our dads cry for the first time. We were angry in Afghanistan, calling for the blood of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and innocent Muslims, not realizing that most Muslims think of Al-Qaeda the same way most Christians regard the Westboro Baptists. We bargained with Iraq, demanding the surrender of non existent WMDs before our ill-conceived invasion.
We will never forget the events of that day, whether by the hassle we submit ourselves to every time we wish to fly or, more tragically, visit the tombstone in the cemetery where a father or brother lies.
It is time to simply remember.
Allison Chase is a junior creative writing major who is proud to be an American. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.
Read Anna Mitchell’s counter to Allison’s debate here: https://collegian.com/2013/09/911-commemoration-should-continue/41170/