Ever since the tragedy, I have marked this anniversary by going out and honoring the memory of those who died with a silent vigil on the sidewalk. This year, I don't think I'll do that. We have rebuilt, and continue to do so: at Ground Zero, a memorial has been created, and many have gone to the reflecting pools today to leave flowers honoring the victims.
There are those who may be in a different place in the cycle of grief, among them, likely, those who lost family and friends in the disaster. That's fine: everyone must walk their own path. We will never forget, but today, just speaking for myself, I am changing the way I observe it.
I might light a quiet candle inside my house, but the more important flame to light is the fire of change. We can reflect and remember, yes, and some still grieve, but we also must move forward with action.
Frodo: I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
Right on, I say. For me, the time of grieving has stopped. Now is the time to decide where we go from here.
I think of the changes that have occurred in our lives since that day, and how much I honestly miss the time before it.
Related to that, I can't help thinking of politics today, and of the upcoming presidential election. I think of the ad released by the Bush campaign that contained images of 9/11, and how I couldn't help feeling that his side was trying to intimidate people into voting for him by bludgeoning viewers with such emotionally-charged material. It's one thing to acknowledge the event; it's another to use it to manipulate.
Speaking of manipulation, I'm disturbed by the spin going on from both parties: all this puffery about Bush's military record (or lack therof) and Kerry's time in Vietnam -- all so much fluff spoon-fed to the media in the hopes of distracting us from the real issues. Me, I don't give a tinker's damn what either of them did at that point in their lives: it was years ago. Instead, I look to their voting records. Kerry's is readily available online at Project Vote Smart. Unfortunately, they have no such archive for Bush, but I would hope we'd all be familiar with his initiatives during the last four years: the war in Iraq, the PATRIOT Act, and the Federal Marriage Amendment, just to name a few.
Yes, it was a horrible attack. Yes, we must be wiser and more responsible about the threats that face our nation. However, right now I don't think we're doing a very good job of preserving the ideals of America That Was within the America That Is.
I want to see our citizenry stop feeling afraid, stop feeling overbearingly jingoistic, and simply work toward realizing the potential of hope sans pomposity. I want national pride accompanied by an appropriately hefty dose of humility. I want to get rid of the constant sense of sad irony I feel over liberating a country from a dictatorship while simultaneously eroding personal freedoms at home. I want the hypocrisy of trotting out centrists at both national conventions to cease: rather than bringing moderates out every four years to win an election, I'd much rather see both sides realize that since they need them then, they also need them during the years that they're not campaigning, and that appealing to the middle clearly has more merit most of the time than going to extremes. How hard is that to suss out? Apparently too difficult for our current policy wonks. Above all, I just want to see us acting like we have good sense.
Am I better off today than I was four years ago? Hell, no. Are the families of the victims of 9/11 better off than they were four years ago? Again, no.
This September 11th, I move that we depart from the policies we've made in reaction to fear during the last three years, decide which still benefit us and which hurt us, and start moving back toward a more balanced, and less divided union in these United States. To quote Barack Obama's inspiring speech at the DNC, "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
Three years later, isn't it time we started acting like it?