Memorializing America

In church yesterday morning, the preacher took the liberty of taking some time to talk about how he felt and remembered the September morning a few years ago. He talked about how he felt, how he worried about the man he knew who was working a few blocks away from the craziness, and how he cried that day.

Many times over, somebody has said to me, "you'll always remember what you were doing when..." It's usually when something memorable happens.

Dad says he rememebers when Kennedy was shot. That was 1963. He remembers well what he was doing. He told me a story about it, but I don't remember the story.

In 2001, I was swimming in the indoor Harding pool as part of a lifeguarding class. I suppose I remember September 11 pretty clearly. I suppose that all those people who said I would remember were right, and I certainly couldn't tell you what I did September 9.

But it bothers me too. About 3000 people died that day. One day, 3000 people. I didn't bother to check to see if we still have a moment of silence and lower flags for those 3000. I some ways, I don't really care because I feel like observing Sept 11 as a special day for rememberance doesn't do justice to the millions more who died from more admirable causes, or the millions who died for even more sinister reasons.

Do you remember June 15 1994? What about June 16? 17? It was from April to July 1994 that some 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed as part of some incident that included "evidence of acts of genocide."

I'm annoyed. Why do we whine and complain over 3000 people, yet we largely ignore and poorly remember the larger injustices in the world around us?

I think America loves to memorialize America. Maybe the desire to memorialize is part of what makes the United States special. Maybe genocide doesn't occur within her borders because we so easily memorialize those who died. We couldn't watch 1,000,000 people die in a few months because we'd need to stop every few hundred to set up a memorial fund for the families.

I love taking trips to Washington DC because I love to see the memorials and musuems that honor those who died in wars, and celebrate the achievements of those whose life work further advanced to ability of society. When I walk by the Vietnam memorial, somebody is always there--usually mourning. The statue devoted to the marines at Iwo Jima is similar. There are many more. I'm looking forward to seeing the WWII memorial that was constructed just a few years ago. I like those memorials, and I believe that they are appropriate.

The other day, CNN rebroadcast all of their coverage from that crazy day a couple of years ago, and it got a little under my skin. I didn't watch it. Didn't want to. Why are we watching rebroadcasts of buildings falling.

So here's my letter to the news:

Dear CNN,
Please stop talking about buildings that fell down with people inside. It's old news. Nor do I want to hear about JonBenet. It's old news. It's really not news at all. Let's build a memorial in New York, and we can think about it when we go to New York.

Maybe if we could get some good footage of airplanes flying into Sudanese buildings, somebody would really start to do something.

I never saw myself as an activist for anything. But the disparity here doesn't set well with me. It's not just that we ignore suffering in far away places. It's that we obsess with a cheap shot in New York. It's easy to play to victim. If life were a soccer match, the US would be the striker falling to the ground after he missed the shot--rolling around, playing the part. Acting lessons 101.


posted by Josh M on 1:29 PM


1Green Thumb said...

I agree it seems the news can talk about nothing but the past. Also I have found that I cannot even get any news during the primetime hours as now CNN and headline news have some moron on there telling you about stories that you have already heard all day. I don't understand how headline news can even have shows on it.. that was the best part of headline news. You could turn it there and actually get news, but alas it has gone the way of MTV.