Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thoughts on this September weekend

Can it really be four years already? The thing about this relatively recent event in American history is that while it happened not so long ago, it already feels like it’s been etched in stone, like it’s not really a part of “current events” anymore. For the people who lost someone that day, I can only imagine that there might be a different and harsher sensation to this new touchstone we have, but for me, it seems like it’s all been boxed and sealed and shipped long before it rightly should have been.

Maybe this is a reflection of how disappointed I feel with how our country stands four years later. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq do not feel like they have in any real way answered for what happened here on this island, and in my native state, and just outside our nation’s capital, on Sept. 11, because that day, that 9/11 as we call it now, was given too much significance too soon and too recklessly. It all became too much like it used to be too quickly. This was supposed to be a new kind of disaster, one that reshaped the way we thought about our place in the world. But rethinking it all would’ve taken too long, would’ve required too much questioning, too much debate. And that is not what America does, or at least not what we are meant to do.

We are people (men?) of action. We look at a situation and know it at once and understand what must be done to right the wrong. All of which sounds very much like the conditioning of military training to me, which perhaps is all too apropos of a comparison. But it doesn’t do much in terms of convincing me that we live in a more evolved world, a country that learns from its mistakes somehow.

Now the forces of nature – upon which we may or may not have some immeasurable impact – have shown how ill-prepared we can be when faced with an enemy not as easily conquered. The aftermath has only made me more disappointed in light of tomorrow’s anniversary. In the must-act-now wake of 9/11, we reshuffled some of our bureaucracy and gave it a new name, but in its first large-scale test, it seems to have failed to secure our homeland in vital ways. Yes, many people share culpability in not doing more, and we are thankful for all those who did give their best and still are giving of themselves to improve the situation. But it still doesn’t do much for that pride feeling we’re supposed to have on national days of remembrance like tomorrow.

Let it be said: I am glad to live here and call this nation, this state, this city my home. But it is not the only way to live and if anything should be taken from this moment, it should be that we do not have it all figured out. We still struggle to help those who need it the most. We still do too much afflicting of the afflicted. And while we strive to be proud of what we as individuals and we as a still comparatively young nation have achieved, those feelings are weighed down by a sense of shame.

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