Throughout our young history, Americans have been admonished to "Remember the Alamo," "Remember the Maine" and "Remember Pearl Harbor." These remembrances - and others - were for the purpose of motivating the public to fight on until an enemy was vanquished. When victory was assured, the memory faded into history.
Now, as we approach the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11, there are suggestions that we should begin to forget the worst terrorist incident in America's history. Recently, a front-page story in The New York Times suggested it is becoming too much of a burden to remember the attack, that nothing new can be said about it and that, perhaps, Sept. 11 "fatigue" may be setting in.
Charlene Correia, a nursing supervisor from Acushnet, Mass., is quoted as saying, "I may sound callous, but doesn't grieving have a shelf life? We're very sorry and mournful that people died, but there are living people. Let's wind it down."
Yes, 9/11 forces us to be serious, not only about those who died and why they died at the hands of religious fanatics, but also so that we won't forget that it could very well happen again and many of today's living might end up as yesterday's dead. That is the purpose of remembering 9/11, not to engage in perpetual mourning. The war goes on and to be reminded of 9/11 serves as the ultimate protection against forgetfulness. Terrorists have not forgotten 9/11. Tape of the Twin Towers is used on jihadist Websites for the purpose of recruiting new "martyrs."
What's the matter with some people? Does remembering not only 9/11 but the stakes in this world war interfere too much with our pursuit of money, things and pleasure? Serious times require serious thought and serious action. In our frivolous times, full of trivialities and irrelevancies, to be serious is to abandon self-indulgence for survival, entertainment for the stiffened spine.
"Few Americans give much thought anymore on Dec. 7 that Pearl Harbor was attacked," says the Times writer, who goes on to mention Nov. 22, 1963 (the date of JFK's assassination), the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970 and the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. The difference between those tragic events and 9/11 is that Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, is dead, as is Timothy McVeigh, and the Vietnam War ended long ago. While all of the 9/11 hijackers died, their ideological and religious colleagues are plotting new attacks in a war that is far from over.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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