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September 11, 2005

Ground Zero: Honoring the Dead Through Amnesia

We have almost forgotten that in the wake of the attacks of 9-11, there was actually a wonderful national discussion on the US's role in the world and how those attacks were similar to other mass murders around the world. The suffering of families in New York and DC led us for a time to look around the world at the suffering of others not with condescension but with sympathy. And we even asked, in a hoary phrase, "Why Do They Hate Us?", not as a way to justify any attacks but to understand why others suffering might create resentment of the United States.

But Bush decided 9-11 would be converted into propaganda not for global empathy but for parochial fear and political propaganda for endless wars.

And his demand that 9-11 be about a narrow US parochial sense of victimization has been translated in New York into demands, ironically, to block the International Freedom Center, a museum dedicated to understanding both American freedom and the fight for it around the world, because some family members of 9-11 victims don't want anything discussed other than their own dead.

Forget other deaths around the world.

Don't put it in context.

Don't give it history.

This is the degeneration of a memorial into amnesia, where even a discussion of others' suffering is seen as threatening honor for our own victims of hate.

In many ways, I can forgive Bush his fixation on Iraq and his opportunistic use of 9-11 to go to war. Opportunism is inevitable in politics. But I can never forgive his hijacking of that brief period of moral reflection by America and his conversion of it into his own stupid, non-reflexive self-righteousness.

Posted by Nathan at September 11, 2005 10:09 AM