The anniversary of 9/11 has come around again, for the fifth time, and I get to offend everybody by saying that I really don't care. It's not that 9/11 wasn't important, it's that I don't put much stock in anniversaries. So the earth is now in approximately the same position relative to the sun it was when that event occurred. So what? That makes THIS the specific time we should be reflecting about the events of that horrific day?
The problem with focusing on the anniversary is that it absolves us of dealing with the reality of what happened on the 364 other days of the year. I don't want to turn this into a Bushian claim that everything is about 9/11/01, but the lessons of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center should be universal and with us always.
The first thing we should have taken away from the attack is the horror of violence. 3,000 lives were cut short, a landmark demolished, and countless others affected. Nobody came out well. The hijackers are dead, the Taliban suffered catastrophic military losses, Osama Bin Laden has been reduced to hiding in a cave, and there are still American soldiers in the Middle East. More of them now, actually. There was no winner on 9/11. Violence of that sort rarely has a winner in the long run. We can talk about justified wars like WW II, but they are nothing to be cheered. WW II devastated two continents, killed tens of millions of people, and helped put hundreds of millions more into bondage under the Soviet apparatus. If that's the best we can hope for in a war then war must surely be the ABSOLUTE last resort. Yes it's better that we won than if we hadn't, but we need to stop romanticizing what happened. Likewise with September 11th, the thing that stands out most for me is not Islamic aggression or our response, or the feeling of being under attack that all of us in New York had. It is the sheer loss of life. The thousands who died. It may be merely a drop in the bucket of human death, but that drop is an anguished tear. It should never have happened, and damn the people who made it happen and those who aided them.
The second thing to be taken away from September 11th is the unpredictable nature of life. Nobody expected it to happen. Oh sure the idea of terrorists crashing planes into buildings wasn't ENTIRELY new, but nobody expected THAT September morning to go the way it did. We in Western society do our best to control and predict the way the world will work, but you can never anticipate everything and you can never be confident that something that will shake your world or your views of it isn't right around the corner. Shocking things happen all the time. A world without shocking events would, in and of itself, be pretty shocking.
The people who want to use September 11th for political ends annoy me. It's not just George Bush and his "People died on my watch so you should follow me" bullshit. It's also the Democrats and just about everyone else. Trying to use tragedy to promote a platform other than "Prevent future tragedy" is distasteful. Almost nobody is really pushing the "Prevent future tragedy" platform. Oh they'll claim to be behind it, but what they really want is power. If we had said that invading Iraq was about preventing future tragedies in that country (as opposed to some nebulous and non-existent threat) I might have been behind it. Of course we've done a terrible job of actually preventing tragedy, as the nightly death tolls inform us, but that's a different story entirely. Tragedy is not about politics. It's about tragedy.
If you really want to treat this day as different from the others that preceded and will hopefully follow it, the best way to do so is probably to try to do something positive. For the world, for someone you know, for yourself (You're part of the world, and if everyone loved and took care of themselves there'd be a hell of a lot less pain, violence, and tragedy out there.) Of course this leads to the question of why you're not trying to make a positive contribution on other days. And you should be.
So really the answer to the Passover question should be that today isn't different from any other day, and that at most it should be a reminder of things we should be remembering anyway. It certainly should NOT be a big political clusterfuck and a chance for Network television to try and profiteer off tragedy. But that's what it is. And that, in and of itself, is another type of tragedy.