What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Linus Gelber
“We Will Never Forget”
Those are the words that were prominently displayed for all to see at a Pentagon 9/11 memorial this morning. This maxim is hardly new, though; it has been the cry of fearmongering Republicans for the past two administrations.
The act itself of remembering is completely appropriate. The continual cry of prophets, for example, has been to remember things that the Lord has done on behalf of His people. So keeping in memory the events of 9/11 is not necessarily a bad thing to do.
Confucius once said that “To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” Following his logic, it should be obvious that there are different types of events to remember. For example, I would feel differently if remembering a childhood birthday party I enjoyed as opposed to remembering the bully who always beat me up. The act of remembering something plays a large part in our current attitude and future actions. We must be careful, then, what we remember and for what purpose we remember it.
9/11 was indeed a tragic event, and many lives were lost. We should remember the sacrifice of first responders who fought to save more lives, and remember the innocent civilians who had not done anything to merit their early death.
But for what purpose are we remembering?
If our memorials, songs, tributes, and political propaganda serve only to help us remember the lives of our loved ones who died that day, then we have acted appropriately. But I fear that the continual display of 9/11 fanfare is intended not specifically to honor the fallen, but instead to continually evoke feelings of revenge, hatred, frustration, and fear.
Skilled politicians both help to create and capitalize upon such a frame of mind in the citizenry, for if the populace is kept in a scared state and demanding revenge, the politician is given a rubber stamp for any and all policy that aims (whether explicitly or superficially) to eradicate the enemy.
- An estimated 500,000 to 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians have died.
- 2,255,000 Iraqi civilians have been displaced within their own country.
- Iraqi homes have electricity for 1-2 hours per day, while before the war they had 16 to 24 hours per day.
- 70% of Iraqis do not have access to an adequate water supply.
- Over 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed.
- 3,500 innocent Afghanistan civilians have died.
The list could, of course, go on ad infinitum. Suffice it to say that there are others throughout the world who likewise feel that “[they] will never forget”. What, then, is the difference between them and us?
Again, it all comes down to action. We’ve remembered the events of 9/11 today; seven years have passed, and we still haven’t caught the man who is allegedly responsible for the atrocity. Several military operations have been carried out as a result of our supposed efforts to root out “terrorism” (while conducting some of our own), millions have died or are dying as a result of our efforts, and hatred against the United States has been fomented worldwide.
We must stop the bloodshed and not allow politicians to use our feelings and frustration to fuel their foreign policies. Our remembrance must not selfishly be for our own countrymen, but for all who have suffered as a result of military and civilian attacks. Should we fail to do so, each side of the battle will remember the attacks against them and use them to continually fight each other.
So, it boils down to this: will we prostitute our memories in support of perpetual warfare, or keep them sacred and fight to prevent any future events of death and destruction that would only become somebody else’s memory?