9/11 for me has always been a living embodiment of W.H. Auden's Musee de Beaux Arts -- my daughter marvelled at the way in which people kept walking their dogs and even getting a suntan along the banks of the East River even while the horror downtown was unfolding.
I found this year on the 7th anniversary that I simply didn't want to remember or memorialize at all. I will wait until another year to pull out envelopes of items related to 9/11 or watch TV. I didn't go to the memorial service at our church as I have done other years or go to the memorial garden made from cement and metal from the site in memory of our parishioners who died there as well as Fr. Mykal. I listened to my son recount his memories of that day, but the conversation was brief. At the time, he concluded, at the age of 9, "God is a terrorist." He's remained with that conclusion, which I think is intellectually and emotionally sound, given the circumstances, which is that God enabled terrorists to kill innocent people. I don't think God is a terrorist, I merely think He has given man free will, and these are the results. My son, who exercises a great deal of free will that then leads to his free will being removed for periods of time when he is grounded, hasn't grasped yet the larger context of free will -- but then, he's young.
So I wasn't even going to blog, and it was only Zha Ewry's pious musings that impelled in me that notion of civic duty that makes me write again, and again, and write too long, and write in a way that is not accessible to many people, but that's ok, write I must.
At the time, a week or so after that attacks, there was suddenly an alarm at the Empire State Building where I had just been for a meeting and where a colleague was still up on a higher floor -- there was concern that it was going to be "next". It was a bomb scare, and false alarm, but like a lot of the false alarms in those first days of copycatting, you couldn't be sure. I had already taken a hike down lots of stairways in that building because of a false alarm, and while it was reasonable to consider it was another one, I sent an email to the friend in case they were glued to the screen and not paying attention but the phone wasn't answering.
We went to my son's window and stared out at the Empire State Building, which could still be seen in those days before construction blocked it, and began the mental trajectory that all New Yorker's seem to instinctively know these days especially due to constant crane accidents -- if that building falls, will it fall on *me*? Am I in its pathway?
"Are they going to attack our house?" my daughter asked, worried. "No," I said. "They only attack symbols. They crashed into the World Trade Center because it's a symbol."
"But am *I* a symbol?" my little seven-year-old daughter asked, without hesitation.
Chilling, that a child would have to ask that question at such a tender age, not even quite understanding what "symbols" are -- taking it literally as "the thing you become because people make you one." We're not special -- all kinds of people have to live under armed conflict all over the world, but it hasn't been the norm in the U.S.
And I while I tried to reassure my daughter at the time, I would have to conclude philosophically that yes, a little white American girl is a symbol. Just like a little Jewish girl in Israel is a symbol. And, some leftwingers will hasten to add, a little Palestinian girl is a symbol.
And here's where I say, "No." The little Palestinian girl is *not* a symbol, dehumanized, for Israel as a state, or Israeli armed forces or movements (if they existed) to attack *deliberately* as it is for Palestinians, both the armed movements and the mobilized civilizans. Israel is not a state funding suicide bombers as other states are; it is not sanctioning and excusing the deliberate attack on civilians; its citizens don't dance in the streets at another's misfortune, as Palestinians did after 9/11. If Israel has in fact been responsible for the deaths of innocents it is due to accident, disproportionate use of force, even larger policies like the settlements which one might conclude are responsible, but it is not the same kind of raw, murderous, deliberate hateful logic of symbolism that a suicide bomber engages in. There aren't any Israeli suicide bombers. If throughout history you can dredge up examples of a Jewish terrorist here or there, everyone has to concede that they are not the norm, and dwarfed by the numbers of Palestinians. There isn't a moral equivalence to the two sides when you look at the use of symbols. It's one-sided. And that's why the morality you develop around this can't be falsely "bilateral".
And that's why, on this day, I don't fetch up moral equivalence bromides and follow faddish activities like "The Day of Interdependence" trying to whip up more blame to distribute to the U.S. and other Western nations for its bad policies (the war in Iraq) -- as Zha Ewry does here, just to cite one of many examples. And maybe it's simply because Zha, who went to the exact same area I did on that fateful day, had a very different day...