Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Remember

I've not really done much to remember 9-11. I don't mean that I somehow missed that today was the 12th anniversary of those horrible terrorist attacks, but so much of the remembering seems to get politicized and caught up in different agendas. I still feel a great sadness connected to this day, and I can only imagine how hard it must be for people who lost loved ones at the twin towers, the Pentagon, or in a field in Pennsylvania.

I appreciate the honoring of first responders that happens each 9-11. Some of the formal, somber recollections seem quite fitting. But there is a lot of strident and angry remembering. There is a lot of us-versus-them remembering.

Here in Washington, DC, along with numerous official ceremonies, there were dueling, angry ones. Dueling is the wrong word. The so-called Million Muslim March - its official name was long ago changed to "Million American March Against Fear" - struggled to make any sort of showing, managing a few hundred people at best. And while I have some sympathies for their cause, their timing was simply abysmal.

The "Two Million Bikers to DC" rally, conceived in part as a response to those million Muslims, managed a bit better showing. While some conservative news outlets spoke of 800,000 bikers, realistic estimates were closer to 8000, enough to cause a few traffic snarls, but not the traffic paralysis that nearly a million motorcycles would have caused for the area's already gridlocked highways.

To be honest, I'm less certain of the exact cause championed by the biker rally, perhaps because there seemed to be a lot of different ones. Officially it was about remembering those who died and who served in the military after 9-11, but their Facebook page is filled with talk of taking back America, defending the Constitution, and a few anti-Obama rants. I should add that the group was well behaved, apologized in advance for any traffic tie-ups, and urged their riders to obey all laws and be respectful. Still, I think their timing was also abysmal.

Both groups obviously have every "right" to do as they did, but I think this sort of remembering dishonors those who died, people of different nationalities, politics, religions, and viewpoints. When remembering gets caught up in a particular agenda, when it becomes a means to further someone's cause, it co-opts other people's pain and sadness, a pain and sadness that belongs to all Americans and many beyond America. And for me, at least, it adds a sadness to this day that has nothing to do with the events of 12 years ago.

That's probably why I found today's reading from Philippians so striking. Paul borrows words from an early Christian hymn to reinforce his exhortations to Jesus' followers. The words are very familiar to me, but some of them caught me differently today.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
   who, though he was in the form of God,
          did not regard equality with God
          as something to be exploited,
   but emptied himself,
          taking the form of a slave,
          being born in human likeness. 
Regard others as better; look to the interests of others; be like Jesus who took the form of a slave. Surely remembering looks very little like some of the events commemorating this day when done from this point of view.

Click to learn more about the lectionary.

No comments:

Post a Comment