We will never forget.
I have no idea what that statement is supposed to mean.
It was everywhere last Sunday. People said it on TV, on the radio, in church, and on Facebook. I’m pretty sure Perez Hilton put it in a post. It was said slowly and solemnly, with great dignity and heavy emotion. It was as if we had convinced ourselves that by remembering, we were achieving some great act. By saying “we will never forget,” we were somehow healing wounds and rebuilding our future.
Remembering a tragedy is frighteningly simple. Any person can instantly remember the hard times in their own lives. This tragedy in particular, that day on September 11, 2001—it has been absolutely seared into our brains. The towers, the Pentagon, the smoke, the screaming…truly, it requires effort to forget those things. Those tragic images have been ubiquitous for the past ten years. They have been cried and prayed over. They have been memorialized by monuments. They have been recorded in books, in paintings, in movies, in songs. Less reverently, they have branded onto t-shirts, two-dollar bumper stickers, and commemorative coins.
Yes, we have actually become quite good at recalling the tragedy of that day.
We have forgotten everything else.
Ten years ago, we kept saying how strong we were, how we were more united than ever. Why can’t we come together that way now? Why is it only in the face of a demonstrative tragedy that we feel bound together by a common purpose?
We will never forget. It seems like such a simple resolution. And yet we have failed spectacularly.
When the representatives of our federal legislative body have less than 20% approval ratings, we have failed. When the president feels compelled to prove his country of birth, we have failed. When people feel they can validly accuse a fellow citizen of not loving this country enough, we have failed. When Americans are detained by the FBI because of their skin color, we have failed. When we act carelessly with our freedom and our democracy—those very things which we were targeted for ten years ago–when we throw them around as weapons against our own people or toss them aside in the name of “security,” we have failed.
Do you remember that feeling of unity ten years ago? It was palpable. You could almost see it, almost feel it in the very air we breathe.
Why now do we only recall the loss? Why don’t we think to honor those who died? Why don’t we remember that unity? Why don’t we remember it every day? Why don’t we know and believe that we are unified, have been unified, will continue to be unified by our very participation in this thing we call America?
We must remember.
We must remember.