September 12: Never Forget

Image via

Image via

September 11th, 2001, we are constantly reminded, is a day we as Americans should never forget. It’s not an easy series of events to forget, so I’m not sure if the commandment is supposed to be literal. I wondered aloud on my Facebook page if, contrary to popular opinion, we should collectively forget the day. If, say, my school with a large first and second generation Middle Eastern population shouldn’t host a “patriotic” day of remembrance for an event that is often used as justification to kill Muslims and occupy Muslim lands.

But some of my friends, rightly, protested. Grief, after all, is a complicated process. And though I don’t want, personally, to remember, always remember the feelings I had that dreadful day – the shock, the horror, the confusion, the constant need for updates, the, well, terror – there are still many who need to work out their loss. It was, however we slice it, a momentous day for us, collectively. We felt vulnerable as a super power.

We felt, on that day, what many Bolivians and Peruvians and First Nations peoples, and Iraqis and Columbians and Palestinians and Afghans felt before and since – that our lives are at-risk, that we are not safe from imminent death for the sins of our leaders. But this time, instead of us exporting that terror (whether through the CIA or US military or military aid), it came to us. Instead of innocent civilians dying there, innocent civilians died here.

And nobody deserves that. No group of people should be terrorized.

So I wonder, in a world where the War on Terror is still happening; where Muslims in America are still under threat of imminent violence; where Pam Geller and a leading Christian publication and even New Atheists are still advocating for the complete annihilation of Arabs and Muslims (the two are not synonymous, but you wouldn’t know that through reading their garbage) throughout the world; where patriotism is largely short-hand for “We are never wrong and if you criticize us, we will bomb your ass”, do we really need to focus so much on our innocence, on the 3,000 who died that day? What of the millions who were killed and injured as a result of our so-called War on Terror? What of the Muslim people among us (or those confused for Muslim and Arab, such as Sikhs and Indian-Americans?) and the threat they live under if they are not thought sufficiently patriotic?*

Can we seek an alternative day, set apart for recognizing the hurt of others often forgotten by – and often caused by – the US? The day after September 11th, instead of ceding that to Glenn Beck and his racist followers, can be a day for remembrance for all those lost through the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as our ventures in Pakistan and various other countries in the Middle East. It will be a day to solemnly remember the unnecessary deaths due to bombs, IEDs, American weapons, drones. It would remember kidnappings of supposed terrorists – the majority of whom were really ordinary citizens – and our torture of many of them and rendition without trial for years at a time.

What if September 12th was for the victims of terrorism following in the wake of September 11th? May we pledge to “Never forget” and to make amends for our own sins.

But also, what if December 8th, right after Pearl Harbor Day, we remembered those Japanese American families we interred – upwards of 120,000 of them. We can enjoy our Thanksgiving, but then remember (and pledge to fight for) the people who lived on this land and whom we have and continue to erase from. On the Fourth of July we celebrate our freedoms, but on the 3rd we recall the slavery (and women servitude, and Jim Crow, and selective suffrage) that served as the ironic antithesis within our own nation. Perhaps we can read Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave Is Your Fourth of July?” as a national ritual.

I dare say these addendum will not tarnish the original holidays. In the spirit of the provocative progressive, I believe we’ve already tarnished our legacies and we must own up to them, while keeping vigil that we not repeat the mistakes of the past in the future nor the present. While we cannot overturn the Japanese internment, we can recognize how we treat non-white citizens when we are officially at war with their ancestral homes. We can’t give the entire United States geography back to the First Nations, but we can seek to end the genocidal practices of settler colonialism here and abroad.

We can do right, if we remember right.


*Anybody remember how so many Arab/Muslim-identified Americans plastered their businesses with the US flag after the events? If it was over-kill, it was likely an act of self-defense.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


Facebook comments

  • Bine646

    If I walked into my class and you were my professor Id ask for an immediate refund. Does Allen just ask you to write the most ridiculous stories ever? Forward is in your guys title but you couldnt be setting your movement any further back- what a bunch of ass clowns you guys are

  • Bine646

    I feel for your daughter

  • Sandy Greer

    Provocative Progressive.

    Why would we want to provoke others? To provoke is to antagonize; progress to strife.

    I cannot take on the Collective Guilt for the past. Cannot atone for things done prior to my birth. For what is done in my lifetime, by my government – I can try to educate myself – and vote. But even then – my efforts will fall short. I simply cannot right all the wrongs of this world. They’ve always been, and always will.

    But I know that grievances, nursed – do no one any good. And that acknowledgement of wrongs will never be enough, for some.

    And I know that being a Provocateur is not the path to Peace.

    Forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves our imperfections – and forgiving others, theirs.

    • For the sins that we are collectively perpetually committing, we need repentance. Forgiveness without repentance is meaningless, it is cheap grace – cf, Bonhoeffer.

      • Sandy Greer

        Whose sin? Your sin? What if I don’t see sin your way? Or you mine?

        Forgiveness demands nothing; is predicated on nothing. We forgive not because the ‘other’ is deserving – but because it hardens our own heart to hold that grudge.

        To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~ Lewis B Smedes

        Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. ~ Mark Twain

      • Our collective sin, as a nation. This isn’t about individual guilt or individual sin. It’s about the problems that the United States (and it’s all of us. This is democracy, isn’t it?) is culpable of here and abroad.

      • Charles Vincent

        We are a Republic not a Democracy.

      • Fred Fox River

        Charles, go to school. Transfer some of those muscles to your brain. That line says nothing except that you’re uneducated.

      • Sandy Greer

        My understanding is the main difference between the two is the constraint put on government:

        A Democracy, basically – is Majority Rule. The majority may impose its will on the minority.

        A Republic, OTOH – is to control the majority, and protect the minority. Specifically – To protect the individual’s God-given (if we believe) unalienable rights (from whence they come) – even from the majority, if need be.

        ^^^An important distinction, that.

        I’m not so well-educated as I might be. And don’t have the muscles you men do. But that is my understanding of the key difference between a Democracy and a Republic.

      • Charles Vincent

        Section 4 clause 1 US constitution “The United states Shall guarantee To every state in this union a Republican form of government…”
        Furthermore if we want to get technical the leading MIT political theorists have called the US a Polyarchy which is a fancy way of saying republic.
        Fred do yourself a favor and learn about the government you live under before you open your ignorant mouth again.

      • Pipercat

        This, of course, would assume we have power to influence the actions that would create this metaphorical sin. In all reality, we don’t. The problem with the word collective, it implies that we belong to an insect colony. We have common responsibilities and, as such, we can only really do the one thing that can change the status quo, is vote.

        Unfortunately, the actual transgression (I don’t believe in sin) is influence. Unchecked influence that comes from all points on the political compass that stirs the pot into an entropy of gridlock.

        As nice as it would be to set aside another day of ritualistic self importance, I would suggest doing something everyday; because only then, can actual change occur.

  • schwarherz

    Let me get this straight…you think we should live in a constant state of apology? For things that, some of which, weren’t even committed this CENTURY let alone this generation. I refuse. I may not agree with some of the things done by our ancestors or our current politicians, but I neither committed these acts myself nor voted for the politicians who did (I voted for their opposition). So I refuse to live in the past, constantly apologizing for things I personally had no part in. I will, instead, live in the present; ensuring that actions I take are just and morally correct and encouraging others to do the same so that in the future we may have no more to apologize for.

    • This isn’t about living in the past, but acknowledging the past isn’t the past, but influences our present reality.