I wasn't going to do a video or blog about 9-11 this year, but I don't feel like I have much choice.
You see, there's this thing that goes on, and it's been going on. Every year on September 11th, we all get together and post our thoughts or graphics or whatever exhorting each other to "never forget" 9-11.
I want to be clear from the outset that I have no problem or issue or complaint about remembering and paying tribute to the dead. Nearly three thousand people were killed for no other reason than that they were in New York City, in the United States, and they deserve to be remembered.
I don't think anyone who was alive and capable of understanding basic speech on September 11th, 2001, is in any danger of "forgetting" 9-11.
Unfortunately what we *have* forgotten is 9-10. The day before. We've forgotten what that world was like; when we were still invincible.
We've forgotten what it was like to truly believe, as Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1775, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
We've forgotten that freedom doesn't just mean being able to say what you want without fear of punishment; it also means the freedom to pursue your hopes and goals for yourself, unrestrained by inadequate education or lack of access to health care.
We've forgotten that the first job of journalists and news organizations is to report the facts objectively and dispassionately.
We've forgotten how to discern between facts, opinions, analysis, and fiction.
We've forgotten how to be discerning but not cynical.
We've forgotten how to trust each other. One of the most common remarks I hear from friends online and school colleagues from other countries is how terribly afraid we are of each other. Everybody's a potential rapist or child molester or - if they're vaguely brown-looking - terrorist.
We've forgotten how to be accountable for ourselves. In 2003, a Washington Post poll showed that roughly two-thirds of Americans believed Iraq was directly involved in 9-11. Today, that same two-thirds of Americans remains completely convinced of their own infalability...and that same two-thirds of Americans continues to ignore - at best - or threaten, harass, and shout down folks like me who were against the Iraq war *before* a single life was lost, who questioned our government's support of the Taliban before those two-thirds knew what a Taliban was, who had been saying for years that our imperialism and "enemy-of-our-enemy-is-our-friend" approach to diplomacy in the middle east was creating a great deal of hostility towards us in that part of the world. And that same two-thirds of Americans, today, will never admit - to themselves or anyone else - that they once believed that 9-11 was the fault of Saddam Hussein.
We lost a lot of things on 9-11. We lost nearly three thousand lives that, every year, we pledge to "never forget." Yet every day we forget the 2.5 million lives lost in wars fought with 9-11 as justification - nearly a thousand times as many as were lost on that day. Every day we forget that - according to a Reuters report in 2009 - 45,000 people die every year just in this country because they lack access to adequate health care. That's fifteen times as many as died on 9-11.
Every day we forget that, according to the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, 16.4 million children live in poverty in this country.
Every day we forget that one of the most fundamental principles of our nation is the separation of church and state. We forget that one of our most cherished ideals is the freedom to dissent. We forget that criticizing our government is not an act of treason, but the highest form of patriotism. We forget that success and power aren't measured solely in military spending. We forget that being objective and fair does not mean giving credence to notions - like birtherism, or 9-11 "truthers" - that are clearly ridiculous and contrived.
We've forgotten how to feel safe.
I don't mean to suggest that we should simply ignore the tragedy of 9-11, but I do mean to suggest that maybe it's time we start remembering what it means to be a nation of free people where every human being is promised the opportunity to become the best human being we can.
Maybe when we remember that, we can start honestly saying that the terrorists didn't beat us.