Monday, September 12, 2005

Four years removed, apathy abound

I don't consider myself a journalist as much as I do a commentator, and no self-respecting commentator would let an anniversary like this pass by without well, commentating.

Today I got a random, but what could very well be the most thought-provoking, text message to my cell phone. It asked if I thought that the anniversary of September 11, 2001 would ever become like that of Memorial Day. My first thought was 'well, I certainly hope not,' but then my second thought was 'but I can totally see that happening.'

It might not happen for a generation or two, but eventually, I'm pretty sure that September 11th will be no more important than December 7th. And that's a little disheartening.

This morning, I was watching coverage of the Memorial Services in Manhattan and at the Pentagon. As family members of the victims read names and said belated good-byes, the cameras panned the crowd of families as they embraced, wiped tears and consoled one another. Then I heard one family member say something particularly profound -- 'for us, every day is September 12th.'

And what did I do? Nothing. I like to think of myself as a patriotic person, and I completely support those families and the efforts to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again, but while they were mourning, I was laying on my futon staring at the television.

This made me feel dirty in a way. Because it got me thinking -- there are people dead. There are families that will forever be incomplete for no other reason than they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on a Tuesday morning.

I realize that dwelling on it could quite possibly take away from the gravity of the issue, but the fact that the anniversary of such an historic event passed so unceremoniously is not encouraging for the future of America.

Much has been made of the dichotomy and polarization of the American people, but I think it might be slightly misleading. In 2004, what was billed as one of the most important, or certainly the most intense election in a generation, only mustered 64% voter turnout.

I would venture a guess that 10-20% of those voters were staunch conservatives, and another 10-20% were staunch liberals. The other 24-44% were moderates simply fulfilling what they saw as their civic duty, and the other 36% of the country that is eligible to vote simply didn’t care.

Perhaps it’s a function of our government, but more likely it’s a function of our culture. People just don’t want to be bothered with unpleasant things like war, terrorism, homeland security, etc. They just don’t like to think about it, so they don’t.

Following 9/11, there was about 15 minutes of unity. Congress sang God bless America on the steps of the Capitol, there were rallies for America, and there was a sense of camaraderie that I’d never felt in America, and I haven’t felt since.

Those days are gone. Congress is back to its incessant bickering, rallies have turned against America (as usual), and people are once again apathetic and complacent. As much as I hate to admit it, I think it’s only a matter of time before September 11th is seen as just another excuse to take the day off and fire up the grill.


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