There’s No Excuse for Limiting 9/11 to Hero Worship

Are 9-11 Remembrance Festivals really latent Islamophobia picnics?

Those that serve only to indoctrinate – yes.

NintendoYou’ve got your 9-11 ceremonies and your 9-11 family fun runs, silent auctions, parades, Karaoke, walkathons, crafts for the kids, food, refreshments, and for some groups, even mock CSI investigations with clues, evidence, and presumably “perps.” (I wonder what they look like at a 9-11 festival.)

You can be outraged at my questioning this stuff, but you can’t be offended by my asking why these events rarely include educational opportunities to broaden our understanding of cultures other than our own. Yes-yes, I understand it was Western culture that took a hit that morning, but number one, ours wasn’t the only culture to be irreversibly affected, and number two, not every follower of Islam is hiding Boeing 747 wiring diagrams. So what’s the excuse? Where’s the booth that explains to young people what the Koran is, and who reads it?

Of Connecticut’s Wethersfield 9-11 memorial picnic, a Richard M. Keane Foundation spokesperson told a local paper, “It’s a nice family evening, and a time to remember in a positive way. It’s a looking-for-the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of theme. I think it’s a great way for people to share the day and remember, but also enjoy their families.”

Absolutely. And familiar sentiments all –– the physical and emotional scars of 9-11 are indeed part of America’s social fabric. I’m just asking why it has to be limited to only those. Why can’t it also be used as a teaching tool (and an ounce of prevention)? Limiting these festivals to only “our side” and our understanding is dangerously restrictive in terms of dealing with those suspicious or distrustful of our way of life. Even from a tactical military standpoint, a soldier would question why we’re dismissing “the other guy.” Must hearts and minds always be won after America has put itself above those with whom it seeks to gain favor?

NEVER FORGET OR THOUGHTCRIME_Where Excuses Go to DiePart of understanding what happened that day is learning where the men who committed those atrocities came from and identifying the conditions that lead to new threats. But how many of the people attending these events, particularly young people, could find Syria, Yemen, or the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan on a map if one was laid out before them?

You could argue that a celebration of 9-11 heroes and victims is no place for acknowledging the enemy, which is fine, but acknowledging the enemy isn’t my issue.  I’m talking about explaining to a 9-year-old girl that she has a counterpart 6,000 miles away who isn’t permitted to attend school, and that the men responsible are more likely to fit the definition of  an “enemy” than she is. How else are American kids going to learn to differentiate between the two?

Oh, that’s right, Islamic awareness is your kid’s teacher’s job, right?

Chalk up another excuse not to try: It’s the school’s responsibility to ensure that my adorable child doesn’t start throwing the word ‘towelhead’ around, not mine.

Islamaphobia Bear_Where Excuses Go to DiePersonally, I think there should be booths to explain our vets’ PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to appropriately oriented juveniles, and others to reinforce certain facts about 9-11, such as the number of civilians who ran back into those buildings to help pull people out. How ’bout Q&A sessions for parents and children to ask questions of vets, 9-11 survivors, clergy, and academics? Or is that not “light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” enough?

And lastly, between the silent auctions, the 5K jogs, the fried foods, folding chairs, and red, white ‘n blue, are we so righteously unbending and sword-like on the eve of bombing yet another Islamic country that we can’t make room for wider recognition and a larger general message in our 9-11 remembrances and commemorations?


Is the excuse because we’re American?

Is the excuse because we said so?

Of course it isn’t, ’cause there is no excuse.


“One’s opinion should only be as strong as one’s knowledge on the matter.” 
? Eric Hirzel

3 thoughts on “There’s No Excuse for Limiting 9/11 to Hero Worship

  1. I agree…I also think that it’s vital for us to acknowledge that this year’s high school freshmen were two years old in 2001…those currently being matriculated at university were in kindergarten.

    This newest generation of abstract thinkers has little empathy for the emotions of September 11, 2001. This is history to them much the way Vietnam seemed like history to my generation.

    Your suggestions may fall on the deaf ears of many adults who have made up their minds about the culpability of Islam, we do owe these nascent world citizens a comprehensive map of the “rivers” they will be navigating in the not so distant future.

    No, it’s not necessarily my job as a teacher to teach them about Isaac and Ishmael and the roots of conflict, but it is my job to help them become free thinkers. And in turn, the mind of a free thinker is more likely to find and to act upon the truth. I believe this with a level of conviction unparalleled by anything else in my big-bag-of-beliefs, which is why I appreciate your final quote by Mr. Hirzel, and which is why I’ll leave you with a quote that I write on the board when my students begin their lessons on logic and persuasion.

    “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”
    ––– John Stuart Mill

  2. Good points made. But there are events going on this week geared towards informing in the manner you suggest. In San Diego, LA, and across the country, for instance, vets and open minds will gladly answer questions or, at least, provide food for thought. In New York one could attend any of the daily events for “How the World Changed After 9/11: A Symposium of Critical Thinkers.”

    But if you can’t make any of the live events in your city,,, and are all good places to start for information outside the box of what is typically promoted as patriotism and honoring the day.

    1. Thank you for your response, Jill, but I’m advocating for less groupthink and more acceptance of cultures other than our own, namely, Middle Eastern, Arabic, Islam and so forth.

      The links you provided seek to rally public opinion against action in Syria and recruit Ground Zero Grassy Knollers. Those are very different kinds of events, whereas I’m merely suggesting our existing 9-11 events be less asymmetric and better proportioned. I’m proposing that we take up the opportunity to teach rather than indoctrinate.

      Bombing Syria is just about the dumbest effin’ thing ever –– especially considering the many problems here on American soil.

      If folks want to bring their kids to get pelted with antiwar rhetoric, fine with me (if you’re dumb enough to prematurely sharpen their skills of protestation). And yes, every young and mature adult should delve further into the questions being asked of the government’s official explanations of 9-11. It’s up to each individual to determine how deeply they want to go into it. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to use this specific date on the calendar to tell your kids that the towers fell via controlled demolition. I mean, it’s parentally selfish not to pick another day, not to mention it strengthens the holiday–ization of 9-11. Again, with this post I was merely trying to get across that the anniversary is too important not to use as a tool against xenophobia.

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