Friday, September 10, 2010

What was it we were supposed to never forget?

YOUNG BROKER#1: This is a new Pearl Harbor.
YOUNG BROKER#2: What's Pearl Harbor?
YOUNG BROKER#1: It's when the Chinese bombed us.  Started the Vietnam War.

The above is an actual conversation overheard in a bar in New York City on the night of September 11th, 2001.  It made it's way around the Internet a few months after the fact.  That was right around when bumper stickers appeared that said "9/11: We Will Never Forget."  They were usually found on pickup trucks, right next to an American flag decal and a Jesus fish.  When I saw these stickers at the time, I could only think one thing: "Of course we're going to forget."
I must make very clear that the statement is by no means meant to diminish what happened that day.  Thousands of innocent people lost their lives to an act of barbarism.  No doubt anyone who lost family or friends in the attacks will ever truly forget that day, despite however much they might want to.  But what of the rest of us?
Do you pause to remember the Native Americans murdered at Wounded Knee?  Do you observe the days that thousands of men bled the ground red at Gettysburg?  Do you even know the dates of those events?  We need not even go back that far if the conversation above is any indicator.  Pearl Harbor was only 69 years ago.  A blink of an eye in terms of recorded human history.  What do you do on December 7th?  Was the attack on Pearl Harbor any less tragic?  Any less of a shock than 9/11?  I must admit that I observe the day, but only because I started reading World War II history at age nine.  Reading about the sacrifices of brave men and women of that time has always stayed with me.  What makes 9/11 different from any of those pivotal events in history, years not withstanding?  The answer is simple: 9/11 happened on TV.

Still, how will it be viewed in 100 years' time?  Like Pearl Harbor is now by generations unborn at the time with no connection to it?  What about in 1,000 years' time?  Probably the same way we think about events from 1,000 years ago: we don't.  Should humanity survive into another millennium, we will be unrecognizable to current ourselves.  The progression of technology will assure that.  Hopefully our intellects will blossom alongside it, leaving us little need to dwell upon past atrocities and religious crusades.  Who knows, when historians in the future rank the most critical moments in human history, 9/11 might rank only as a blip.

Of course we're going to forget.  It's human nature.  And as I see both individuals and political parties use 9/11 for political gain, as I see so-called pastors wanting to burn holy books, as I watch protests over where a faith can build their place of worship, and as I hear jihadists pledge brutal and senseless retaliations, I can't help but wonder if forgetting could be the best thing that could happen.

9/11...wasn't that when Hamas blew up The Empire State Building?

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1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, Ghost Dogg said: "I think we should act like it's no big deal. Make it into a parking lot. Or an amusement park. Or a Movie-plex. Anything to show godless capitalism and American jingoism moving on as if nothing ever happened."

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