September 11th

This is one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever tried to write. It’s one of those where one sitting is not enough to ideally formulate every idea I’m trying to express. The trouble is, if I don’t post this now, I never will. I know I’ll want to return to it at some point, so that what I’m trying to say becomes more clear, appropriate and powerful. But for the moment, it’s my attempt to pay tribute to the victims of the September 11th attacks, both living and dead.
I am especially grateful to the men and women everywhere who make it their jobs to come to the aid of others, regardless of the risks to themselves.

It’s a weird, serendipitous coincidence that I started watching American Sniper with my family last night, and then finished it today. As the closing credits started appearing on-screen and I saw the original footage of the funeral procession of a man who died at the hands of another veteran, I needed a bit of time to think about how I feel about US war heroes (the term should not be thrown about lightly) and how I feel about the Iraq War.

I’m not the patriotic type; I’ve mentioned that before. Removed from all social media (except blogging), I also didn’t see what inevitably many US Americans posted today. However, whether I want to admit it or not, being in school that morning in September in 2001 affected how I situate myself in relation to the world. Of course I see myself as US American. However, on days like today and during my stay abroad in Germany, I’ve had to ask myself several times what that means and the responsibility that comes with it.

While in Germany, I took a course called “Representations of War in British Film and Lit.” As a part of the course we read Wish You Were Here, which was about the brother of a British soldier who serves in Iraq and Afghanistan and dies on active duty. It was the first time I had talked about the Iraq War in an academic setting, and of course it was amidst German anglophiles.

In case you didn’t know, the German population as a whole was not really a fan of the U.S. going to war with Iraq. Thus, because I also had been selected to provide the Referat, or presentation, of the context of the novel, I found myself in the position of justifying the war. I’m not completely proud to say that I recognized the aggressive military response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks as being the result of pain and confoundment. At least, those are the emotions I still feel today, and I think this may confuse the issues surrounding 9/11 for many US Americans.

However, while in Germany I’ve been forced to think about the other factors in Bush declaring war in the name of the USA. I was challenged by another exposure to the representation of the 9/11 attacks in the form of the 11’09″01 film series. I saw Sean Penn’s contribution and it showed me for the first time the ways in which the 9/11 attacks have been processed by intellectuals and maybe even critics of the US.  One could argue that the attacks brought out the best and the worst of the US.

Looked at with the distance of the Germans and the British, as well as most intellectuals in the US, the terrorist attacks can be examined as a disillusionment for the US. Sean Penn’s images of the hard-working American who has lost his wife and exists in the shadow of the Twin Towers forced me to consider how the fall of the Towers could be a positive thing. While writing that, I don’t think positive is the right word, but the image of the flowers blooming and the husband being forced to live in the present, not in a past where his wife is still alive, makes me think there is some value in the the US being shocked into having to try to understand its country and how it is received by the rest of the world.

This is something that I’ve never had a problem understanding, since I’ve been putting my country in relation to another one for almost all my life. As anyone with exposure to other ways of living can tell you, having two things to compare allows one to look more critically at each thing. However, while I’m not proud of the US entering into war with another country, I can take the time to understand the situation more clearly, just like while I feel the pain of seeing what one person can do to another (or many), as in the countless examples during the Nazi Regime of the 3rd Reich in Germany, I can also take the time to understand the situation more clearly in relation to the events that occurred before it. Wanting to learn and understand (if understanding is even possible) does not excuse the behavior on either side, but it also does not exclude me from wanting to be affiliated with either country.

So, while I know it’s easy to try to forget the things that cause us pain, I’m glad to be reminded of the 9/11 attacks to remember the people who lost their lives as well as to take a bit of time to think about the world since 9/11 and how it has changed. American Sniper reminded me how people will honor the sacrifice of others (whether it was asked for or not) and how some people believe in the war and some don’t. The significance of today’s date, the moments of silence and my own personal memories reminded me, yet again, of how much pain this earth has seen, regardless of which nation the people belonged to.

There’s so much more that can be said in relation to this, and I fear that I could not address all of them, leaving this post off limp and weak. But ultimately it’s up to everyone to decide for him/herself  how to relate to the events. Thank you for reading!

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12 comments

  1. This is an extremely well-written piece that examines the way that 9/11 changed the way in which the US interacted with the world, and the way in which it changed the way that others viewed the US. After seeing many posts about #neverforget, I think that there is more that we need to remember. Not only did this event affect the lives of US citizens, but it affected countless others around the globe. It’s consequences have been far and wide reaching, from the war on terrorism to a difficulty in understanding a culture which differs from what one knows. It’s difficult to say everything that I would like to in regards to this topic, but you do a great job of discussing an important aspect of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Thank you for your comment that ideally would be a part of my post. You clarified a few aspects that I couldn’t articulate as well the first time. My main instinct was not to undermine the remembrance and ability to continue mourning (which isn’t restricted to a particular day, anyway), but to consider how these attacks affected the rest of the world, inability to understand a culture included. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The only thing I would add is that Sean Penn, and this is without watching or even reading about what he said about 9/11, is so skewed by political agenda that makes objectivity, honesty, and often reality itself, impossible. Sean Penn, while a phenomenal actor, couldn’t bump into an intellectual thought accidentally because everything runs through his childish political beliefs.

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    1. I get what you say. I’m not sure if being run by/running a political agenda means he can’t be intellectual, but I was confused by some of the messages Penn was trying to get across. They did seem a bit out of place. On the other hand, it’s good to remain open to other ideas to question (and often this validates) what we believe.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s all good. I’m not sure I need to see more of his stuff either, but I do think it’s worth recognizing how others can have valid arguments without us agreeing with them. And I don’t think any less of you for choosing to make your life less complicated by ignoring him/others like him.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. As a military retiree, luckily without any combat experience, I was a tweener – (in between wars). The decisions to send nations to war are political decisions and not simply military choices. It takes more than just one country (usually) to go to war and all the sabre rattling that goes on before a war takes place is the chance for one or the other side to back off. Unfortunately, the final decisions about war are made by “leaders” who will not be placed in harms way unless they lose. The decisions are hopefully made based on real threats, reprisals to an act (in this case the U.S.) and not simply wars of aggression or for the gain of certain class or business interests.

    At the time of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan I was for the war, based on what our leadership was giving us for information. Now with the clarity of history and removal of the emotions of the day, I am not so sure about the need and what we have actually accomplished in that region of the world.

    I will always support our military men and women, but I believe that we as a populace need to demand more accountability from our leadership about when and where they decide to send them into combat. Unfortunately, propaganda is a powerful tool and well used/understood by those in positions of leadership in this country.

    I could ramble on for a long time on this subject, but did we do right by invading those countries, with the passage of time I am less sure of our actions and if our leadership’s intentions were appropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your reply. I respect your opinion especially since I know you know more about war (I.e. Politics vs military, etc.) than I do. I’m also not saying that I think the U.S. should have responded differently… And there’s a lot more besides to talk about.
      I also wonder if part of our perspective on the war now has to do with how difficult it was, and how/whether the declared objectives were met. If it had been a “success” in the most obtuse sense of the word, then maybe we wouldn’t be as ambivalent about it now.

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