This weekend, we will see billions of dollars in media time, politician time, Homeland Security time, Pentagon time, NFL time, and the cost of our collective attention, spent on remembering 9/11. Most of it will be the 'Never Forget, Never Forgive' kind of remembering. We can already hear the drumbeat of this. Politicians and generals like Panetta and Petraeus warn us that it's still a dangerous world, that our enemies are still omnipresent, and bent on destroying us.
We jump at shadows. A weekend pilot who wanders into the airspace above Camp David (where the president was not staying at the time) is immediately characterized by the media as a possible terrorist; this followed by dire predictions from Homeland Security that the next wave of terrorist attacks will come in small planes.
A mentally ill person armed with an AK-47 shoots up an IHOP in Nevada. The media blend this and other sad events like it into a nonstop drumbeat of fear, marching us inevitably backward in time, toward the terrifying events of 9/11. We go into hiding from one another. Gate our communities. Update our security systems. Buy more guns. And all this does is blind us to the reality that we live in a country where mentally ill people can get their hands on AK-47s. And we burrow deeper into the darkness...
I've got an idea for this week, an antidote for the fear being foisted upon us by people who want to manipulate and profit from it. An idea that doesn't involve chest thumping, flag waving, or the naming and elimination of our enemies: Do what the Amish do. Forgive.
When five young girls were executed in a schoolroom by a lunatic with a handgun in Nickel Mines, PA, in 2006, the Amish did the most difficult thing I can imagine. They forgave the gunman and his family. They bulldozed the schoolhouse where the massacre took place, and set about doing the unfathomably hard work of getting on with their lives.
When it comes to 9/11, we haven't been allowed to forget, and we certainly have not been encouraged to forgive. Instead, we build tourist attractions and circle up for commemorations and hardly a word will be said about forgiveness. Warmongers like Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz saw 9/11 as a business opportunity. And that, with Cheney's abominably-timed book promotion, continues to this day.
The battles we must fight are not with our enemies but with ourselves. No matter how much we hurt, or how much harm has come to our community, we can never find healing in bringing more hurt into the world, or in harming others as we have been harmed.
We can all learn from the Amish of Nickel Mines. Forgiveness is the first step out of the shadow of our fear, into the light of a better world.