Sunday, September 12, 2010


Before I return to personal inventories - which got a great, fun reaction from my readers! so on they shall go! - I am going to share a little 9/11 reflection.

Two pieces of context:
  • first, I went yesterday to an interfaith vigil at a mosque in Portland, with about 350 other people and listened to mini-sermons from 11 religious leaders from all different religions in the city. It was quite lovely, and I think was in large part due to how focused on the future is was - how we can be compassionate, understanding, embracing of other religions (and non-religious-altogether folks); how we can build a respectful community today in Portland that grows outward and onward;
  • second: I am reading "The Forever War" by Dexter Filkins and it is blowing my mind. It is a long book entirely comprised (so far) of on-the-ground reporting from his years as a journalist covering the Middle East, NYC, Pakistan and everything in between. I already, a mere three chapters in, have a better understanding of Afghanistan as it really exists in modern history than I have in my whole life. (Take that, cable news!)
So... 9/11.

Yes, it's a cultural touchpoint. Like Kennedy's assassination or the Berlin Wall coming down. (The first of course I wasn't alive for; the second I remember being sternly instructed by my father to "Watch; and remember this" in front of the TV one night.) Such moments are important to the collective human narrative, to the American experience. 9/11 can bridge gaps between individuals and inform their intimate conversations. I have spoken with feeling about what that day was like for me with others, and heard what their days were like. I remember well contrasting the sunny Montana day with the collective fear; I remember the whole world changing around us, college students at the start of a new year.

There are citizens who lost people in NY, DC and PA. They have a unique story and connection, and have the right to live their grief process free from those in this country who wanted/want "in" on their personal pain. I know someone who lost a parent on a hijacked plane that day and for that very reason, never asked about it. It's not my grief; I was not in NY, DC or PA and I did not lose a friend, neighbor, family member or acquaintance.

With the memorials on TV, billboards, radio, blogs... with "we/I will never forget" plastered all over Facebook... I am taking a classic Pig of Success stance here and calling shenanigans.

Yes. It was an act of terrorism. Yes. It was frightening for generations of Americans in an absolutely new way. Yes. It's part of the cultural narrative in an epic way.

But. If you lived in Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia or any of dozens of other countries on earth, terrorist attacks, suicide bombs, surface to air missiles, war rape, a level of fear, a widespread lack of safety, all could be part of your life, every single day. And this isn't a slam against patriotism, it isn't a slam against the military or guard, it's a slam against taking the feeling of violation that happened on 9/11/2001 and not letting any one else have it. As if Americans are the only ones who have ever been violated or attacked. As if physical violence on a large scale had never happened to a society before. As a good friend put it today, acting as if the intensity of victimhood on that day and the power of grief in those weeks belong only to those who deeply felt the pain of 9/11, and to no other nationality, and no other persons in history.

That's what I think on 9/12. Just me?, I wonder...


  1. No, it's not just you. Though I will always remember 9/11, I personally did not *suffer* anything because of that day, and to act as though I have some strong personal connection or victimhood, simply because my country was attacked, just seems like fakery of the most horrid kind.

  2. well said, emily. not just you (and Jen). this was one of my first reactions after 9/11, that it seemed incredibly arrogant to behave as though we were the only people to ever suffer an attack. yes, it was horrible. yes, the people's lives affected are immensely important. but as you said, for some people in some parts of the world, this is how they feel every day. how dare we downplay their fear and lack of control by behaving as though it isn't significant unless it happens here.

  3. Amen. That is so true. It seems as if many Americans presume they are the only violated ones, and that we are so much more patriotic than other nationalities.

    Well expressed Ems,, of course!

    And, another Happy Birthday to you!