Monday, September 11, 2006
Remembrance: My Letter to the Peace Library
September 11, 2006
Yesterday, I had to tell my son – my beautiful, sweet, baseball-obsessed, 8-year-old son – about this date, what happened five years ago, when he was only three. Somehow, we have managed to keep it from him until now, and I think we made the right decision. Now, at 8, we can talk about the tragedy of it – the madness of the men in the planes – but also about our country’s response, our president’s misuse of this horror as an excuse for war against a country unconnected to the crime. I had finally decided to tell Ben because his school had sent home a note, urging the children to wear red, white, and blue today, “to show [their] patriotism, to show that Janney [Ben’s school] doesn’t forget!”
After having this talk with Ben I left him to rollerblading and baseball with his dad and went to a poetry reading to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the literary magazine Gargoyle. There, the poet Reuben Jackson talked about September 11, about the man who called it “the greatest tragedy to occur on American soil.” A man from Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
Where is the national day of mourning for the victims of the American genocide, the millions of Indians slaughtered by a terrorist state – first the British empire and later the new Republic, these United States?
When do we remember and mourn the 40 million dead in the Middle Passage, in slavery’s brutality, the beatings, the torture, the wholesale rape? What about a day of remembrance for all those dead at the hands of home-grown terrorists, the lynch mobs?
When the noose is etched in shadowy lines on the cover of The New Yorker; when our country truly faces its terrible past, acknowledges the terror waged here, every day, for hundreds of years; when we use September 11 as a day to mourn and atone for our monstrous crimes; when we take this day to remember Chilean president Salvador Allende, democratically elected by his people and murderously deposed by a CIA-backed coup on September 11, 2003; when we honor and emulate Ghandi, who on this day 100 years ago, first risked arrest rather than submit to the racist laws of South Africa, thus embarking on the great movement of non-violent resistance; when the day arrives that the United States tells the truth about our past, takes responsibility; on that September 11, I will be proud of my country, I will urge Ben to wear red, white, and blue, I will believe we are truly on the road to peace. I know that day will come. I believe it must come.
So today I mourn. I mourn all the victims on our soil. And I call us. I call us to truth telling, to remembrance. “Those who are alive receive a mandate from those who are silent forever,” wrote the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz in his Nobel acceptance speech. Our mandate is to speak. Thank you for this opportunity to do so.
Let us remember.