Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11--Never the Same

The date September 11 carries a unique undercurrent of sadness.  The day that forever eliminated Americans' sense of comfort and confidence taught us something we had never considered: that we as a nation could be despised and attacked merely for our philosophy, what we represent, rather than for something we've done.

That day in 2001 remains etched in each person's mind.  Living on the west coast, we were not awake yet when the attack began. We received a phone call prior to dawn from a relative in Israel who alerted us; we turned on the radio. I recall the adrenelin, following with the country the collapse of the first tower and then the second. The planes down, into the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Each of us felt personally threatened; we shared a collective fear, the impenetrable became vulnerable.

I was one of millions of mothers who woke up their children for school that day heavy with the task of conveying the news.  My daughters were silent; my second-grade son hugged me, cried and wanted to do something to help the situation. He decided to begin diligently wearing his "tsit-tsit," the square-cornered undershirt with "strings" observant Jewish men wear, something he heretofore resisted--a major commitment, since he attended public school at the time, where his strings brought taunts.

The national unity was inspiring, and American flags were everywhere. Slowly, however, in the intervening years, they've disappeared.  About six months ago, the "God Bless America" flag magnet on the back of my car finally disintegrated too much to remain. I was one of the last to display one; why are there no such decorations available in stores now?

Because time fades the feelings, dividing us once again.  But it is only because of the success of intelligence, security and military efforts that we have not been attacked again.  Now we know better: we are a target, and those who would destroy our civilization are even now planning ever more inventive and unexpected means to obliterate as many Americans as possible.  Theirs is not a politically motivated effort--the World Trade Center had been attacked before, but we failed to take it seriously.  The attack on 9-11 was at least a decade in the making, a time period in which both Democrats and Republicans were at our nation's helm.

We need to remember--not just today--that the instigators of 9-11 continue to plot our demise with the goal of a theocracy that is repressive and universal.  Questions of gay marriage, abortion, immigration, government health insurance and just about any other issue on the public agenda today, are laughable irrelevancies to the thousands of religious zealots who are willing to sacrifice their lives and their children's lives to force allegiance to the system (sharia) they fervently believe is not an option but a necessity because God wills it.

They tout a culture in which women are accessories to men, subject to barbaric surgeries so that they never experience sexual pleasure.  Where education for females is suppressed, and their options in life limited to a tiny shrouded corner of the world.  The radical Islamists who are at this moment training to attack again remain a threat; we cannot get cocky about the security we have enjoyed under President Bush.

If there's any frustration among Obama-ites, it's with the President's continued commitment to anti-terrorist efforts in Afghanistan.  But I recall reading, at the time of Pres. Bush's exit from the White House, his belief that Pres. Obama will have to maintain this stand: "He'll be receiving the same briefings I did," Pres. Bush noted, and so any president would understand that the real choices are few.

Our weekly local newspaper features a "man on the street" interview, and this week respondents were asked what they thought of Pres. Obama's Day of Remembrance and Service.  Some said there were too many holidays; others thought it wouldn't mean much; some agreed it was just fine.  I'm actually glad that Pres. Obama is elevating this date to a special day, and that it answers the need my second-grade son had on the real 9-11 to make a difference.  The president could have made some inspirational remark and let it slide, but he challenged each of us to do two things:  remember (grieve and understand the threat remains), and act, because we do hold responsibility for the state of the world.

Beyond that, we need to see that not all religions are equal.  Our Judaism inspired my son to wear his tsit-tsit; the religion of terrorists inspires children to hate others in the world.  But beyond the intellectual analysis of dominant religions, we need to get personal and use means of our own religions--prayer, charity, and for us, more fully embracing Jewish law and study--to combat the spiritual intensity of those on the other side.  This is a physical war, clearly, but it is just as much a war of intangibles, and we must not neglect that battle front.

Rosh Hashana starts in one week. I need to get busy.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this post- it's sad that September 11th has just become another day again, instead of the national holiday it should be.