As some of you may know, eleventh of September has been designated as a day of “service and remembrance.” My school had a speaker in the court yard today during my service learning class, so we adjourned early to attend. My professor recorded the talk with my camera, and I emailed her the video earlier today. I had to use google drive, so I may as well put it here. It was mostly a talk about volunteering. The main focus was on the veterans that our government and economic system have completely screwed over–but of course, it wasn’t put in those terms. Our speaker was a veteran who spoke very emotionally about homeless veterans. He’d built an organisation dedicated to helping his fellows in ways that our government officials can’t be bothered to do for veterans, yet manage to find in their hearts for the rich.
Our introduction asked us to remember how we all pulled together, as Americans, as republican and democrat, and so on. Little mention was made of how we pulled as Christian and Muslim. I was there; I remember how we pulled, and it wasn’t together. The Muslims at my middle school all became objects of suspicion, and this is a phenomenon documented across the country. It hasn’t stopped either; construction of a Mosque in my own state was halted by a persistent campaign of vandalism and death threats. And an Islamic community center ten blocks from the former site of the WTC in New York, which had been planned for years before the attacks even happened, managed to erupt in controversy across the whole country, evolving into “the mosque at ground zero” during the hysteria, when it was neither.
And over the last eleven years, we have also witnessed a fundamental change in our relationship with our own government, where it has now become a normal part of life for our fourth amendment rights to be violated en masse, the subject of off-hand remarks and daily sarcasm of the level usually granted to bad drivers. Formerly it was purely the topic of paranoid conspiracy theories, especially when we were first introduced to the concept under the pre-eminently trollable name of “Total Information Awareness.” Then we eventually accepted it under the warmer and fuzzier title of “Patriot Act.”
So yes. Let’s get involved in our communities like they’re asking us. Let’s remember the people whose service was forgotten by their own government. Let’s remember our ability to act in unison, but let’s also remember the mistakes we made. Let’s remember that Americans can be Muslim as well as Christian or atheist. Let’s remember why T.I.A. was such a ridiculous proposal.
Our service should be to not toe the official part line. “9-11 was not a defeat!” sounds so nice and uplifting, but the attacks caused us a lot of problems. Some of the bipartisanship that came out of it was really bad for our country. Some of us who pulled together pulled away from a lot of other people who didn’t actually mean us any harm. In no way is this the sort of thing that should be spun into something fluffy.