Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Spirit of 9/12 (and 9/13)

It really is too bad that Glenn Beck has claimed the metaphor of 9/12 to further his own ideological agenda. (See the core values of The 9/12 Project.) What I remember about 9-12-01 is that ideology seemed at least momentarily trumped by the values of compassion and decency as people came together to grieve, to care for each other, and to seek a higher purpose. Values like number seven ("I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable") was, I can honestly say, the furthest thing from my mind on 9-12-01. Beck's vision skews what I think makes America a truly great nation, and what made us a particularly great nation on 9/12: that we care for our neighbors, and that it is not all about me, me, me. I do remember what was happening at St. Paul's Episcopal Chapel; that, for me, captures the true spirit of 9/12.

If one is to claim the metaphor of 9/12 for what it is we are called to live into ten years later, then I commend to you the superb recent piece written by Arianna Huffington, "Honoring the Memory of 9/11 by Honoring the Memory of 9/12". In that piece, she writes:
Ten years ago today, we resolved not to remain sitting stunned in front of our TV screens, but to get out and do something for our nation. On that day, such a throng of people showed up to help at Ground Zero that many had to be turned away, and tens of millions of dollars poured in to charities. People were driven to connect - to the country, to their communities, to their friends and families... Faced with a world that at times felt like it was collapsing around them, people suddenly found themselves filled with a very different perspective, no longer worried about whether their jeans made them look fat or obsessed with the latest meaningless celebrity scandal. Our navel-gazing culture collectively glanced up. Instead of numbing ourselves with escapism we connected - with ourselves and with each other.
We connected. That is how I remember it, too. We held each other close, knowing that neighbors are precious, and that the neighborhood matters.

I've been listening to Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" the past two days with new ears. The album is centered around Springsteen's reflections on the 9/11 attacks and one might argue that it presents his vision of what life on 9/12 (and 9/13) might look like. Of course there is the title track, in which Springsteen invites his listeners, with the passion of a preacher, to "come on up for the rising." But I've also been listening to "Into the Fire" - a song in which Bruce honors a first responder who went "up the stairs, into the fire." And then these words:
May your strength give us strength/ May your faith give us faith/ May your hope give us hope/ May your love bring us love. 
Indeed. If the lessons learned from 9/11 can be strength, faith, hope, and love then all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

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