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ISSUE 118 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/15/2004

Remembering 9-11

By Dennis Hidalgo
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 15, 2004

More than ever before, the United States looks at those outside its borders with uneasy paternalism and deep distrust. Our new common sense encourages triumphant yet acidic nationalism. All of this thanks to a cultivated public semi-religious worship we nurtured surrounding the remembrance of 9-11.

Right after the terror attack against the towers, Ground Zero became hallowed ground that rivaled for devotion Civil War and American Revolution sites. Nationalism fomented super-patriotism at the expense of fairness, diversity and rationality.

The popular discourse became congested with rhetoric about freedom at a time when we practiced it the least. This language of national self-love belied an impulse for vengeance to placate our thirst for fleeting justice.

The Old Glory became the visual representation of this discourse. In some areas, it was virtually mandatory to wear some kind of flag likeness or display its colors. Flag-wearing creativity reached its climax then.

Those pursuing the proliferation of such a violent discourse right after 9-11 outshine by far Pericles' success on the funeral speech. Thucydides informed us that Pericles used the memory of dead soldiers to recruit new ones destined to die in a senseless and doomed war against Sparta.

Likewise, we were mostly united, as no other country in the world, to support our state in its favorite sport: war.

In declaring war against Iraq in the name of retaliation, we outdid the disaster of 9-11 in deaths, terror and trail of bitterness. By sending our troops, our leaders aimed to squash the enemy, seed global democracy and foment good will toward us.

But it had the opposite effect. The memory of 9-11 was used to impose a world order of disgust. Weighing our pains, we thought it right to display our godly wrath. It was just convenient that where we deposited our wrath coincided with oil deposits.

Our state spoke of reviving the spirit of conventional colonization by lobbying the aggressive exportation of its culture through war. Unhappily, this war has been disproportionably costly to female and Latino soldiers -- groups with diminished power to shape the exported culture.

Some, who are happy to display a hyper-masculinity and a self-righteous political religiosity, would like us to persist in remembering 9-11 as an excuse to continue this nation's recent path. Some sort of religious jealousy exists at their rhetoric root.

They appeal to our compassion and attempt to convince us that dashing the 9-11 rites would be a sacrilege against the lives lost, and the "sacred" idea of a united nation. These rites have a special attraction to some. They are also more dramatic. Remembering the towers falling can intensify revulsions and bring chilling thrills down the spine. That kind of excitement beats most religious services.

It should be obvious by now that the way we have been remembering 9-11 has led this nation into a path of isolation, anger and disrespect. I would argue that some of those who quietly forgot 9-11 are simply avoiding participating in the repercussions of this ritual.

Many people have realized, probably viscerally, that this is not the correct way of remembering our painful past. It has fueled one of our worst international tragedies ever.

I am all for remembering the past, but the fewer rituals we use, the better we would understand it. And if there must be formal memorial services, then the procedures should be intended to seek harmony and peace with the world, and not only with just ourselves.

After all, many lives have been and continue to be lost to terrorism and unnecessary wars, and we can join others in grieving and working for reconciliation.

Dennis R. Hidalgo is a visiting assistant professor of history.

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