Every year on this day, people all over this country draw upon their collective memories to rehash a most unpleasant morning. As a collective people, we cling to these memories - the where were you's, the I remember when's... But when we do this, we also make the conscious choice to forget.
We forget that this was one day. One of only two days in our history of its kind.
We forget that maybe, just maybe, the families of the victims couldn't care less about where we were when their near and dear ones evaporated from their lives.
We forget that on Sept. 10, 2001, few and far between us had a flag on our porch.
We forget that this day brought out the ugliest side of us, too.
We forget that we use this day to continue to judge others who come to this country in search of what we have.
We conveniently forget that we are so lucky compared to almost every other country in the world.
We forget that drawing up these moments of terror over and over again maintains a level of fear. A fear that begets more rash action, more fear.
We draw up our flags and call for pride. For love of this country. But love is not meant to be boastful or puffed up. It is not meant to be defensive or gaudy. It is meant to patient and kind. Understanding. Full of grace and gratitude.
In the wise words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Perhaps this is the day we should put away our collective negative memories and be thankful, not for what was taken away, but for what we have.
On this day of days, I am grateful and thankful for my breadth of experiences that have allowed me to step back from America and see it in a different light. I am grateful for my beloved kitten who drives me crazy, scratching at papers when she wants me to get up and feed her. I am grateful for my health. For friends near and far. For the ability to choose how I want to spend my life, which whom, and where. For the ability to choose not to act my age. For the ability to know that not putting out a flag or spending 15 bucks every year on a new Old Navy flag t-shirt does not make me unpatriotic. For the ability to work in a job that I love. With people who are supportive and creative, if not a bit more subdued than I'd love them to be. For a church family that truly supports and welcomes questions and doubt, instead of preaching "truth." For forgiveness, and fresh flowers, and shockingly red nail polish, and happy pants, and (eventually) the fall and winter seasons with their crisp air and requisite scarves and sweaters. For violets that actually bloom. For books to be read and music to be listened to and sex and dreams and new opportunities and new faces and new adventures. And for love.
Because I believe perhaps our national motto should adjust. Not with the times, but back in time. When our national pride was perhaps not so stubborn and reactive and puffed up. But when we were encouraged to take a deep breath and press on. Sir Frankin was right. Fear is the worst of us. Fear is the killer of dreams.
Jonathan Larson said, ever so wisely, "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation." But there's more. The opposite of fear isn't calm. It's love. And today, I choose love.