What Does “Never Forget 9/11” Really Mean?

An example of one of these “Never Forget 9/11” campaigns. Most of the ones I’ve seen in my area are just handwritten signs.

I was driving down a suburban road the other day and saw that someone had put up a spray-painted sign stating, “Never Forget 9/11.”

Beneath it, also in spray paint, they had written, “Blue Lives Matter.” (Facepalm.)

Their lawn is covered with miniature American flags.

From the combination of the two signs, I can discern their political affiliation is republican, though I could have guessed it well enough from the first sign, and from the bizarrely numerous American flags. Excessive patriotism is the realm of conservatives in my country. What I can’t guess, though, is what message they’re trying to send with the “Never Forget 9/11” sign.

9/11 will be in every comprehensive US history book. The children who are too young to remember it will be taught about it. There is no conspiracy to hide the event and its significance, at least that I’ve seen. True, eventually the people old enough to remember the actual day it happened will die, but that can’t be helped. It will live on in our schools. In our history classes. Our political science lectures. People will remember that terrifying moment in our nation’s history when our comfortable lives were interrupted by a terrible act of violence. But here’s the thing: it was a terrorist attack.

The goal of a terrorist attack is to make people afraid. To make people dwell on that fear. That’s why it’s called terrorism. I’m not saying we should forget 9/11, but do we really need to put up signs about it everywhere? Dwelling on it is letting the terrorists win. Letting them impact our lives all these years later.

The only circumstance in which I think one of these signs makes sense is if you had a loved one who was lost in the attacks that day. In that case, sure. It has a personal meaning to you. I get that. But wouldn’t a memorial to that individual be more personal than just a blanket reminder about an event we all remember anyway?

My fiance brought these signs up in conversation yesterday, and they make him scratch his head too. Between the two of us, the only political message we could come up with for the signs was pretty dark: “Remember who did this.” That makes this whole thing even worse. Now it’s a call to action. A call to be against a whole group of people. With a certain orange hairball inching closer and closer to the white house, I can’t help but wonder whether or not this kind of sign is a symptom of his xenophobic disease.

Am I reading into this too much? Am I so deep in my liberal brain that I can’t just see a sign and take it at face value? What do you think these signs are trying to say?

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful of others and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

Nancy

 

I’m Not Praying for Paris: Looking for Ways to Help

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The western world is pretty shaken up by what happened a few days ago in Paris, and the response on social media and worldwide has been huge. YouTube changed the red block behind “Tube” to a French flag. Various landmarks around the world have been decorated with blue white and red lights. People are putting the French flag over their profile pictures on Facebook, and sharing memes that say “Pray for Paris.” I’m sure you’ve seen them.

This is comforting for some people, but it all strikes me as a way to make ourselves, as outsiders in this situation, feel better. It may feel comforting to you, but I don’t know that it’s really helping the situation. As an atheist, I’m pretty sure the world can do better than just pray. So what can we do?

  1. Skip posting about this on social media in a way that is primarily self serving. It’s OK to say your thoughts are with France, but don’t go on about your feelings. This is not about you. I realize most of social media is, but tragedy isn’t.
  2. Read the news. Stay informed. Call out people who want to banish all Muslims from the country or imprison all the Syrian refugees. (Sadly, I’ve heard such suggestions from members of my family.) These sorts of tactics have been tried in various countries throughout the world (think of Japanese internment during WWII in the US for instance) and they’re a very bad idea that will only further marginalize people who are part of this minority religion in that country, and  as we’ve seen over and over again in this conflict, oppression will lead to more recruitment for ISIS and other extremist groups. There has to be a way to prevent these attacks that doesn’t involve oppressing minorities or religious discrimination.
  3. If you’re in the area, see if you can donate blood, or volunteer your time with an organization that’s helping. If you’re not–say you’re in the US or some other country, donate your money to the Red Cross or other groups that are mobilizing to help victims. This article lists some options, but always do your research before choosing a charity organization to give your money to.

Last but not least, acknowledge that there have been many more lives taken in terrorist action in the Middle East, and if you’re going to try to do something tangible for France, you should at least consider doing something similar for the people in the Middle East too. The western media, at least in the US in my experience, has a tendency to prioritize western problems over those in other continents, and I get it. We as a people have a tendency to worry more about the people we identify with. We might not be able to magically change the fact that we feel emotionally for people in Paris but not Syria, but we can at least direct our thoughts to the Middle East and stop skipping over news stories involving that region. It does start to feel like more of the same after a while, but we need to acknowledge the privilege we have in the west that for us, events like 9/11 and the one in Paris are not an everyday occurrence. There’s a reason people are fleeing Syria in droves, and maybe we should give two bothers to maybe learn what their flag (flags at the moment, actually) and the flags of other nations with this issue, like Pakistan, Iraq, and so forth, look like.

I realize this is a very emotional time for many people, and I hope I haven’t offended anyone with this post; I don’t mean to downplay what happened in Paris. It is a real tragedy and we should do what we can to help, but I really do think that we need to also stop ignoring areas that have been facing terrorist attacks on a regular basis just because they’re mostly populated with groups to which we in the west have trouble relating.

Feel free to leave a comment, especially if you have any further advice on how to offer help to Paris and other nations currently suffering from terrorist threats and attacks.

Happy thinking

Nancy