So, today is that day in my lifetime's history that garners specific attention to the catastrophic events of September 11th, 2001. The common descriptive phrase I hear being used is "another day that will live in infamy." Myself, it doesn't have any catchy phrases or memorable quotes attached to it. I never fell into the hype that surrounded that day, and I think my own personal misgivings about the events that transpired was set ablaze by the absolute selfish hysteria I saw the rest of our beloved land fall into.
I remember vividly the shock of the images playing across our office's large television screen in a conference room we never used. Having just bore my third child exactly eight weeks prior, when seeing such destruction and then stunned by the sight of another plane fly into a building right before my eyes on national t.v., my first instinct was to go home and hold my child close. Still, the four of us that made up our small corporate team sat there, watching in disbelief, flabbergasted into complete silence. Within twenty minutes, I watched cameras zooming in, sharing the most intimate moments of victims' lives as they started falling, even jumping, from the blasted out windows of the buildings they were trapped in. Seeing them drop, often head first, down the many stories to the rubble below, was heart wrenching and peaceful all at once in the midst of the chaos that had erupted around them that morning.
There is no imagining the mix of emotions that must have been leading up to and during the follow through with such a decision. It makes me wonder if the individuals that did fling themselves from the destroyed buildings had believed in some type of deity or another. I realize there are many who contend that these victims were either thrown out or so blinded by smoke and flame that they had dived out thinking they had found a cleared doorway to safety. For the purpose of this discussion, I am eliminating those two possible factors. There have been numerous occasions where folks have purposely flung themselves to their demise in situations that were hopelessly futile and this is a mind set I want to focus on here. Yes, there are a lot of assumptions in this blog, so please bear with my ambling around, through, and within the issue.
So, I am sitting there with my coworkers, watching people falling from these wrecked buildings (at this point in my life, I'm skeptically agnostic). Seeing individuals dropping off burning buildings was a very new experience for me. I'd never witnessed desperation played out live before my eyes. As some who have read many of my previous essays on here know, I'm not unfamiliar with pain and suffering, still this was a game changer for my perspective on reality.
Naturally, I immediately sympathized with the situation these doomed people were faced with, and felt incensed at the spectacle being made of their decision on national television. My coworkers, on the other hand, were dismayed at the victims plunging down the sides of the building amidst smoke, paper and other clothing raining down with with them. Two were outright incredulous and disgusted at the jumpers, not the camera crews filming.
"What are they doing?"
"Why would they do that?"
"God forgive them. I think another one decided to jump! Look at that!"
The last line is particularly chilling to me. Automatically assuming these men and women had turned into unforgivable sinners for jumping to their deaths instead of choking on smoke or burning alive? These statements further highlighted, in my own mind, the sharp divide between Christians over whether one is saved by grace or saved by action.
Personally, I was raised on doctrine that espoused saved by action. I was routinely fed the whole multiplying of talents bit, though I never truly bought it since it didn't make sense that you would ask this deity into your life and then, in order to keep his favor, you had to follow rules that seemed to constantly conflict with one another or couldn't be applied consistently. I was a very literal child, to say the least, and had a very difficult time interpreting the same biblical rules five different ways depending on the situation. And this is the exact mind set I still possessed when listening to my fellow peers' commentary regarding the events streaming to us live on 9/11.
Turns out, the one who made the forgive them comment was a Catholic, which, while explaining a lot, still disturbed me greatly that day. How does allowing oneself to die of smoke inhalation, or being crushed by a flaming building all around them, demonstrate more faith than someone who makes the choice to welcome death sooner? To me, the show of faith seemed equal. Still, the judgement passed by onlookers that day seemed to question to what extent one must seek martyrdom when faced with a situation resulting in severe injury or certain death.
Is it really God's will to expect suffering in the worst way imaginable when in the middle of a disaster?
Or is it the constant comparison to Christ's own martyrdom that fuels this type of religious scrutiny against those that suffer?
Who is it that is truly demanding such levels of penance to be necessary?
I think it the practice reeks of selfish ego resulting out of a very sick and twisted jealousy. My own upbringing had taught me that those who take their own lives have sinned, no matter the situation, and that they would face judgement for their actions, ultimately receiving a lesser reward in God's kingdom. Essentially, it was disgraceful to take your life, no matter the situation. But whenever someone died, it seemed members of my church focused on how much the individual suffered prior to dying. Sisters of our congregation would prattle on for hours over how many hours they sat by so and so's bedside during their final hours and describe in great detail every needle prick or surgery complication that further delayed their death painfully.
So, to my point of this rambling blog entry.
The day of the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Shanksville tragedies taught me a very important lesson: Step back from the horror and observe the many ugly facets of humanity that are drug out into the light of its aftermath.
There wasn't only Islamic extremism showing its ass to the world that day. In the hours, days, months, even years to follow, the hypocrisy of the Christian Right came charging out from the closet, with their political machine in tow, pushing a sick agenda similar to the Red Scare of the '50's. And, it seems it has been a successful push. The groups of Christian extremists have managed to gain traction and now have stronger footholds in our government once again. Groups like the Tea party or the Christian Liberal party have provided doorways for members of these minority splinter groups to have a legislative voice in arenas deeper inside the congressional halls of Congress-- literally in the Senate committee offices. They have more than just lobbies now. They have Super PACS and corporate sponsors who buy their candidates.
To me, this is the equivalent of Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood's own successes in becoming legitimatized political parties within Middle Eastern governments. The idea that the American Family Association could ever get a sponsored candidate into office seemed ridiculous twelve years ago, but not anymore, and it is a frightening reality. The Muslim Brotherhood managed to get Morsi in, and look at the turmoil Egypt has now found itself in thanks to the extremist policies his government rammed down the citizens' throats.
This is a day of remembrance for me, but not so much because of the large number of lives lost and injured. Today is a reminder of how all tragic events, big or small, should not cause us to jerk our knees in hysterical abandon. It should be a call for calm analysis and healing. A lesson in continuing our lives day to day by allowing ourselves to think outside our carefully constructed boxes that have been over insulated by special interest groups and doctrine tainted patriotism.
Much like the act of those who opted to take control of their fates that day, we must do the same in our own lives. Hurling ourselves from the proverbial towers our nation has forged out of disillusioned patriotic ego over the past decade. Letting the tower crumble under the weight of misguided fear it has represented instead of reinforcing it with further misconceptions about the world around us. Allowing ourselves to end the cycle of Cold War Era demonization of other cultures and nations to justify our selfish wants. One must learn from this tragedy, and many others we have experienced, that while the threat can be very real, retaliation and preemptive prejudice will not prevent others from harming us, but instead make it more likely we will be struck again.