Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflections on the 9/11 Commemoration: Mourning for Whom, for What?

I was not going to write about 9/11 today because the commemoration of that day has been so hyped by the American mainstream media, there seems little left that's worth saying, little that can make a dent in the distortion of truth and authentic meaning in the midst of the hype.

I was not going to write about 9/11 today because the very American obsession with ourselves that is driving the 9/11 commemoration hype is at the root of what has gone wrong with American culture since 9/11, and in noticing the commemoration, one feeds that self-obsession, rather than correcting it.

I was not going to write about 9/11 today because my mourning for those who died is inextricably linked with the death of my mother four days after the events in New York, and my personal grief is and should be of little interest to those remembering an event in which many innocent people lost their lives.

But after a dismal night last night, one of tossing and turning and mulling over this and that--including the 9/11 commemoration--I've decided to record a few responses.  These are hardly earth-shattering insights.  I have no doubt many of my fellow citizens have come to conclusions similar to mine, vis-a-vis 9/11.

It does seem to me, however, that it's important that individual citizens make our voices heard in a society in which the voice of the individual is increasingly suppressed by authoritarian discourses, including the discourse of the mainstream media, that deliberately seek to obliterate the voice of the individual.  To coerce and constrain the consciences of individual citizens. 

To make it appear as if whatever we have to say, insofar as it does not toe the party line, is not worth hearing and makes no difference at all.

I am under no illusion that my puny voice does make much of a difference anywhere.  At the same time, I feel an obligation to say what, it seems to me, needs to be said.  What needs to be said because conscience demands that it be said.  What needs to be said because, if individuals who push against individual-obliterating authoritarian discourse do not speak out, those of us still capable of speech contribute to the impression, both for the world at large and for those who will come after us, that there are/were no contrary viewpoints, as the official-speak of a particular period rolls forth.

And here's what needs to be said as 9/11 is commemorated, it seems to me: 

Much that is wrong with global society at this point in history stems from the woeful (and willful) ignorance of me and my fellow citizens in the U.S. about what is happening outside the boundaries of the United States.  We are a people infatuated with ourselves, confident of our destiny to subjugate the world to ourselves, certain of our divine commission to be a light on a hilltop for all other nations.  Certain, even, of our own sanctity, even as we betray anything that the venerable religious traditions of the globe identify as holy in almost every major decision we make--in how we organize our economic and political life, in how we treat the least among us (and the earth itself), in our violent response to difference and otherness and to perceived threats to our national supremacy.

I certainly grieve the tragic loss of life in the events of 9/11.  I am aware that many of my fellow citizens lost loved ones in those events.  I respect their need to mourn, and I mourn with them.

At the same time, I am decidedly of the opinion that the way in which we as a people have chosen to deal with these events contributes to and compounds the very problems within the global community that led to the events of 9/11.  Instead of seeking to understand the world outside our borders more carefully and to respond to the needs of that world more justly, we have chosen to respond to 9/11 by indulging in a typically American orgy of self-righteousness and chauvinism.

Instead of critiquing the uses of violence and what those uses do to a people who revel in them, we have met violence with violence.  We have militarized ourselves as a nation to the point that we appear willing to accept perpetual, endless violence--pseudo-war against bogus enemies--as the price of our national security and national economic well-being for the foreseeable future.

We have abandoned any critical sense, many of us, that those urging us down this path, and using ginned up hatred of the Other to justify the militarization of our entire society, are doing so to benefit themselves and the powerful economic elites they serve.  In abandoning that critical sense, we have lost our souls.  We have sold our souls to soulless men who, even as they devour our souls, tell us that they alone stand for pro-life values and for religion and spirituality and sanctity in an increasingly godless world.

And even as we rightly mourn the many innocent citizens who lost their lives a decade ago, I am of the opinion that it is also ourselves for whom we ought to be mourning, if we care about things like the loss of one's soul.  Or the destruction of our most promising institutions, including participatory democracy itself.  Or the future of the planet and the human community it sustains.

No comments: