Today we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It’s a time to mourn the thousands of victims of that day’s unfathomable violence and the millions around the globe who have suffered in its aftermath. Children born in the aftermath of that nightmare day are now in middle school. Others, living lives without parents or siblings lost in the attacks, have reached what we define as adulthood. And for the empty spaces in each child’s life, for the empty seats at the table in homes and for the lives of the families left behind – forever changed by that day – we mourn. We commemorate the suffering of these families and friends and their bravery in finding ways to go forward.
Today is a good time, too, to renew our commitment to the ongoing battle to secure the values of liberty, freedom and democracy that have been crushed in the response to the tragedy of 9/11. It is a time to declare our fundamental human rights and claim them again. It is a time to look back to the personal rights we had when 9/11 happened and to stop and look at the losses, beyond life itself, that are the aftermath of that tragic day. There was no one magic moment when the erosion of our rights accelerated. There was nothing visible in response to the day, but we can look back and see the losses – like the right to personal choice about our health and our bodies, or the right to freedom of sexual speech and expression. We’ve lost those rights in the social climate created by fear and terrorism, a time where the population, confronted with a world out of control (from the economy, to jobs, to wars we may not even understand) finds comfort in focusing on what we think we can control – personal freedoms. And personal freedoms are the easiest thing to imagine we can control. Those who would seek to strip Americans of those freedoms know this and use it to their advantage – fanning the flames of hysteria and then offering distraction in religious fervor and suppression of our most basic selves – our sexuality.
In the first paragraph of this post, the last line, I said the “f” word – “families.” I didn’t define it and I would venture a guess that none of you reading this post gave it a second thought beyond the meaning of the word itself: a group of people interrelated by their caring and commitment to one another. What kind of a world have we allowed the radical right to create for the children of those victims of 9/11 when a law can be passed that no unmarried couple can foster or adopt a child – that puts 1100 children back into a foster care system? Arkansas during the 2010 election of President Obama. There are states where it is illegal to live together without the “benefit” of marriage. Florida, among others. I even heard an NPR program that talked about whether or not alcohol should be illegal for pregnant women because it could have a negative impact on the fetus.
How have we honored the victims of the tragedy of 9/11 when we have stripped their wives, sisters and children of access to reproductive freedom? How have we honored the victims when we have made a family something for which you have to fight in court or vote on to achieve? These aren’t people who died fighting for this country, but they did die in our country, believing that our country stood for certain things. We have allowed voices like Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin and a long list of others to craft a world those victims wouldn’t recognize as America. We have allowed our elected officials to behave in ways that, had they been in school rather than Congress, would have drawn a stern rebuke for childish nonsense. But these are not children, and the bullying and poor behavior has impacted our lives in ways most of us can’t even comprehend. We have a Speaker of the House who treats the office of the President of the United States with disrespect and disdain. And I say “the office” because no matter who sits in that seat, the office itself deserves respect! We have a political party that stated their primary goal is to ensure that President Barak Obama is a one term President. How do we stop the endless campaigning and hold our elected officials responsible for governing? How do we stop this insanity? Well, there’s an election in 2012. Speak with your vote!
Let us promise today that we will reclaim the world the victims of 9/11 left – as imperfect, as flawed and as corrupt as that might have been – and that we will turn back the clock on a movement that seeks to restrict every personal liberty guaranteed to the families and victims we honor today. The rhythmic sound of a drum beat as mourners approach the memorial this morning can also be heard as the ticking of a clock. Let us not waste another minute of time ticking by but, rather, reclaim our fundamental human rights; let us reclaim our America; and let us reclaim control over our bodies and our lives!
And in doing so, we will honor those who died on 9/11 – ten long years ago. Let us recognize the glorious promise of America and stand together, united in mourning, and in reclaiming that promise!