September 11th, 2006


"How will you celebrate this holiday?"

The Buffett Oracle today informed me:
52. Better break out your thinkin' cap and your old dunce cone.
This morning, when I woke up, the radio alarm was, of course, playing the morning DJ on the station I wake up to. As I drifted in and out of consciousness for a half hour, I caught the radio chatter about the fifth anniversary of September 11th, and found myself wondering:

"How will you celebrate this holiday?"

It seemed like a strange question to ask: how does one "celebrate" this holiday? How will it be celebrated in the future, when the "sting" has worn off, when terror is "defeated," as Bush has informed us it will be ("But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows")? Make no mistake: it is a holiday. President Bush declared it such: today is Patriot Day.

I meant to ask, "How will you remember the events of five years ago?" But that is not the question I found truly interesting and deeply personal.

In a proclamation on September 4, 2003, President Bush said, "I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities." Rememberance services and candlelight vigils are indicated as "appropriate," as is flying the flag at half-staff (if you aren't flying a flag today, you're in violation, FYI).

But still, what will this holiday become? How will it be celebrated?

Will we one day celebrate September 11th with fireworks? John Adams predicted that July 2, the day the Resolution of Independence was voted on, would be forever remembered with fireworks. ("The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.") He was mostly right: July 4th is.

But fireworks seem almost disrespectful: the explosions of September 11 were not explosions of freedom, but explosions of terror. If the proclamation of President Bush is any indication, we are to sit in our homes and remember the day somberly. Or, if we look at it from another angle, we are to cower within our homes, remembering the day fearfully.

But Bush also indicated that we were embarking on an age of liberty, that "this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world." September 11th, it seems, ushered in a new age of liberty and democracy. I will not force you to listen to my out-loud wondering about where that liberty and democracy are to be found with the Patriot Act in force.

But today, as I listened in my half-asleep stupor, I realized what September 11th really was: a media gimmick. I have been hearing about the "special rememberance" editions of radio morning shows, where clips from various news stories and commentators will be played, for almost a week. September 11th is a way to garner listeners, to sway them to your station and your morning show, and a time to say things that perhaps you can't get away with on other days.

This morning, I was told that I "had to be angry," that I had a right to hate. "We have to get him," I was told, informed that getting Osama would somehow make the world right, make it a happy-go-lucky pre-9/11 world.

The modifier "terrorist" (as regards Sept. 11) is now a casualty of this war. No longer is this the "worst terrorist attack on US soil." It is now the "worst attack on US soil." There is no longer need to justify that, though: the comparisons to Pearl Harbor have stopped as well. This is now officially a bigger, badder attack. Historians will teach it that way to our children, too, much as they teach that Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War and that the Tet Offensive was the turning point in the Vietnam War.

But still the question remains: How will you celebrate this holiday?