Today, we remember “9/11.” It’s a depressing day. I feel it personally, having lost one of my best friends, Michael Asher, 11 years ago, a victim of a terrorist attack, an attack that initiated deep and wide global suffering. Distant suffering, the deaths and mortal wounds of individuals and groups large and small, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and elsewhere, including the four corners of the United States, combines with personal loss. The day is doubly depressing in my judgment because, tragically, remembering poorly has provoked more suffering than the terrorist act that started the whole mess, and this continues, guaranteeing that the suffering will not end. The term “9/11” and its remembrance are dangerous.
When I went to the ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks with my dear friend Steve Assael, a survivor, I heard too many blind patriotic cries, saw too many signs celebrating retribution and military might.
On the day Osama bin Laden was killed: I viewed with dismay the wild celebrations of young people outside the White House and elsewhere in the country. As I wrote here, their enthusiasm confused me. I didn’t understand it, though later with irony, I pretended I did as a way to call for the end of the war on terrorism.
And even as I shared my enthusiasm for the clarity and fundamental soundness of the Democratic Convention last week, specifically as it contrasted with the Republican Convention, the repeated reminders that Obama killed Osama turned me off. “Osama Bin Laden is Dead and GM is Alive,” Biden’s favorite slogan, I believe points the American public in the wrong direction. I understand why this served good partisan purpose, but find this deeply depressing.
Action is the major antidote for depression, and I have been self-medicating here at Deliberately Considered. Thus, over the past year, I have published at Deliberately Considered pieces that try to open up more careful remembrance. These are all highlighted on the home page today, as featured pieces and as favorites. My modest attempt to contribute to a higher quality memory is to invite readers to take a look at these, organized as they are around two themes: 9/11 and Osama bin Laden.
Note how forgetting is natural, as Gary Alan Fine explains, but also consider what should and what should not be forgotten. My suggestion: remember the loss, forget the impulse for revenge. It is interesting to me that this morning NPR reported that now three quarters of the American population doesn’t think the war in Afghanistan has made us safer.
Consider how we look in the eyes of the world with Anna Lisa Tota reporting from Italy. Perhaps wild chants of USA, USA, USA! is not in the national interest. Either at ground zero, or after the killing of Osama bin Laden, or at a national political convention. Read through the thoughtful reflections and debate we had here about this, and don’t stereotype all Americans, note the diversity of judgments and opinions.
I am committed to writing a more scholarly paper on collective memory. Its title will be “Against Memory.” It will be informed by the discussions here.