Tomorrow is September 11. As if you need a reminder. Anniversary fatigue set in a few days ago, and I’ve hardly paid attention to the articles, books, TV shows, commercials and other assorted patriotic memorials. It’s not a day I’m looking forward to, and not for the reason most people dread the anniversary. Most people dread the reminder of the horror of that day. I find horror in the event as well, but I’m just as troubled by the results of that September morning.
Since last year our country has swung into action to protect the American way of life. But what are we protecting? Our right to be completely insensitive to world affairs? Our right to profile and abuse people based on their skin color? Our right to sell 9/11 greeting cards? Our inalienable right to put out memorial cans of pop? What’s so great that we’re trying to protect?
There’s all kinds of freedoms and rights we have in this country that are worth rallying behind. But instead we’ve made a poor show to the world. We’ve sought revenge. We’ve pummeled some of our own, ripping them from taxis and beating them, firing shots in the night at any passing turban, assuming a darker skin tone is proof of terrorist tendencies. We’ve been the bully in world affairs, dropping bombs where we want to drop bombs and threatening to drop more bombs where we want to drop more bombs. A pregnant Afghan woman lost her baby and is lucky to be alive today after shrapnel from an American bomb was lodged in her throat. We wave our big, mighty stick of justice at Iraq, pointing to all their misdeeds, all the while forgetting that we were the ones who gave them the chemical weapons we accuse them of using.
Four planes were hijacked last year and obliterated because around the world the U.S. is seen as the oppressor. In the year since we’ve done nothing but bring truth to that caricature. If we’re such a Christian nation, as so many religious leaders and politicians up for reelection would have us believe, then where is the Christian love and forgiveness? Where is the grace? We seem to have plenty of it for our fellow Americans, but we can’t spare a dime for our brothers around the world. We suspect our Arab American brothers. What happened to Christ’s command to love our neighbor? What happened to the Good Samaritan? An Arab man, complete with dark skin and turban, is the modern equivalent of the Good Samaritan. The rich man passing by on the other side is you. The Levite who refused to help is me.
As all the patriotism swells tomorrow night, we’re very good at loving ourselves. We’re very good at making heroes out of everyone, whether they’re deserving or not. But we haven’t changed as a nation. We’re more defensive, more vindictive, less trusting, and less loving. We’re willing to shed a tear for our stars and stripes, say the pledge and say it loud, pin a ribbon and puff up with pride. But we’re not willing to show the world the love of God we claim this country was founded on.
The one thing I truly hate to see is those images. The events of last year replayed again and again, captured on film and regurgitated for all to see, engineered to pull at your heart and squeeze a tear from your eye. Superimposed with flags and statues of liberty and excuse me while I vomit. I watched with voyeuristic shock as a 747 disappeared inside one of the towers of the World Trade Center, only to be replaced with belching flames. I don’t want to see that image ever again. But tomorrow it will reply again and again. Four-year-olds will see it and look to the sky every time they hear a plane, tugging on their teacher’s clothes and asking if the plane is going to crash, going to come down on them.
Our media-driven culture wants to bring healing, but a montage of patriotic death will only fuel zealous actions of bitter selfishness. Hug your children tomorrow. Buy a homeless guy a burger. Be kind to an immigrant. Smile. But don’t bury your head in a memorial edition of the paper. Don’t buy the book. Screw the DVD. And whatever you do, unplug the TV.