Last May the parent group for my son's school set the date for the fall family get-together: September 11, 2011. And immediately when we said the date my heart leaped out of my chest. I don't have any great insights ten years after that day, but it is an anniversary too compelling for me to ignore. It is a physiological reaction to a trauma, a welling up of fear.
How could it be otherwise? So many of my best beloveds in harm's way, there were agonizing hours of not knowing, and nothing particular happened to me. Sitting in Rhys's bachelor apartment in Limehouse, East London, wondering why I wasn't where my heart was, as I heard news reports of the State Department bombing. Holding the landline receiver with sweaty palms. I was on the phone to a fellow expat when the towers fell. We didn't hang up, but we didn't have words, we silently witnessed each other's violently (and silently) breaking hearts. I am sure everyone has a similar story.
Yet I am concerned given how the world is that this anniversary be glamorized, be a very American opportunity to relive our outrage and sense of violation. It was outrageous. We were violated. But ten years later, we know a bad guy was minted that day in American popular consciousness. And we have poured the force of our sovereign onto getting that bad guy, and it didn't, in the end, turn out to be right, or just. It didn't end well.
There are many in the Tea Party and the GOP who desire that we have a Christian nation. Who can blame them? They burn brightly with the reality of their God, and their love of the United States. To them I say, well to all (my eight blog readers) I say this: on this anniversary I say we need to love our enemy and forgive them their wrongdoing. Their trespasses against us. Sure, this is a big ask. But it isn't me making this up on a random Thursday night in Cambridge. It's Jesus: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Understand them and forgive them. Because if you love someone, that is what you do. That is how you get closer to the truth that will set you free.
And that's not just Al Qaeda. That's the Democrats too. And the Republicans. Love them. Love them all. This is the greatest commandment of nearly every religion. Jesus did not ask you to gain power, he only stood at the door and knocked. He left everything to our discretion. Our discretion has perhaps not been so great over the last decade. We have made mistakes, we have handed our discretion over to consumerism, we have been blind to the injustices we ourselves have perpetrated upon people outside the United States and even on people within the United States. We have used our laws to keep us rich and to control people who have not heard the knock. We have stood behind the United States blindly even when it has acted unjustly. This blindness is a problem.
The cure for our blindness is a willingness to see. That willingness has its heart in compassion, even for our enemies. My highest and best hope for this anniversary of 9/11 is my highest and best hope for the world I would like my children to inhabit: a world where people are brave and enlightened enough to set aside their differences and work for a better place, an inhabitable planet, just capitalism, fair democratic sovereignty. I imagine this, and I think I am a dreamer and then I remember thanks to a certain guy from Liverpool that I am not the only one.