Maybe that church just wanted people to remember those who died and the families they left behind. Maybe that was the goal of the 9-11 television specials that were on all week, or the 9-11 anniversary pins, key chains, and coffee mugs you can buy online. But commemorating such a horrendous episode in our country’s history without talking about how to keep it from happening again anywhere isn’t enough of a remembrance. If we’re going to print In God We Trust on our money we should still be concerned about the lives of people all over the world without thinking we’re going to look like commie-pinko-hippie pushovers. Patriotism isn’t being blind, deaf, and dumb to what's happening on the rest of the planet.
Real patriotism asks the hard questions and brings up stuff we’re not always honest about, just like those forms at your doctor’s office that ask you how many drinks you have in a week and if you use recreational drugs. Let’s at least be honest about the fact that our nationalistic intuition tells us anybody who looks Arabic is born wanting to blow up sky scrapers, and the metric system is downright un-American. These beliefs are wrong and we all know it, but we’re not the only ones guilty of confusing patriotism with nationalism. A few years ago the city of Paris supposedly raised over $40 million dollars to keep out corporations like McDonalds. But this wasn't really about corporations, it was about defending what it means to be French. Le Big Mac isn’t going to destroy French culture, but this guy? If I were French I would be le worried, but I wouldn’t blame Americans.
I hope 9-11’s legacy will be more than just airport body scanners and pat downs. I imagine those who died that day would be sad at the idea of their surviving families still living in fear. Maybe before another ten years pass, we can figure out how to coexist while ridding the world of the bad guys who think that destroying one way of life will save another. I have my doubts, since we can’t even agree on who the bad guys are, but I haven’t given up on the idea. In the meantime, I go about my daily life and try to be the kind of person other people don’t want to blow up. It’s not much, and it won’t keep me safe from life’s random acts of cowardice. But it does keep me from being that paranoid neighbor who has a year’s worth of dried food in the basement and thinks the government implanted a homing device in her head when she had her tonsil taken out. That’s good enough for now.