Perhaps not for the reason you’d expect, I’m positively dreading the imminent approach of the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America – September 11, 2002. It’s not that I’m afraid of a second attack. I seriously doubt that it’s going to happen on that day. In fact, since the terrorists’ main tactic seems to be to strike without warning, this September 11 will most likely be the safest day of the year. I don’t expect an attack when everyone in America is watching the sky.
Also, I’m not dreading expressions of genuine grief, remorse, or loss. There have been many such expressions, and I respect and honor them. I even share in them, as a few months after the attack I posted my own small tribute to the heroes of the day, in Flash form. It was intended as a way to express my own feelings about 9/11, to honor those men and women who gave so much more than most of us will ever have to. I had no agenda or purpose other than that, and I recognize that many others have done the same, and will do the same this year. That’s fine. I respect that, and I support it.
No, what I’m dreading is those who would use the tragedy for their own purposes. The public relations campaigns disguised as tributes, the political agendas being met through the tragedy, the commercial goals being reached.
It’s the “Special Edition” magazines that have begun to overflow the racks of grocery stores, spam e-mails that have already begun circulating, chest-thumping politicians who talk a good talk but don’t walk the walk, television networks who make a big deal out of their hours-long commercial-free tribute specials… all vying for our attention and using a tragic event to get it. It’s the endless repetition of images we’ve seen a thousand times: burning buildings and a smoke-engulfed city, planes smashing and smashing and smashing into the towers. Destruction, death, and despair, all played over and over for us as if we haven’t seen it already.
It’s the pandering, the proselytizing, the presumption. It’s PR gone horribly, horribly wrong. It’s publishers and advertisers who make a buck off of other peoples’ misery. It’s politicians who don’t want to honor the dead or the brave so much as they want to further their own agenda and make themselves look good in the eyes of the public. It’s the rampant commercialism of tragedy and self-interest that I object so strongly to. It all disgusts me, and I’m already seeing evidence of it all around me.
I think, on September 11, I’ll be turning off the TV, logging off the Internet, and avoiding anything that looks like newsprint. I think I’ll enjoy the day… spend time with my kids… fly a kite… play with our dog. I think I’ll do my best to enjoy the freedom that this country represents, while turning away from the greed and the selfishness that it sometimes engenders. I will surely think of those that were lost, and those that endured, and what it means to me. Surely, I will do that much. But I will do it in my own way, and I will do it without subjecting myself to the worst of the abuses of a tragic event. I will do it in the way that I think best respects the day, the event, and the tragedy.
I hate (yes, hate) the people who attacked America almost a year ago. However, almost as much, I hate those who would use that tragedy for their own selfish ends. Their disrespect and abuse of tragedy is a crime in itself.