Sunday, January 23, 2011

We Do Not Remember

Nine days after the worst attack on American soil, President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001. He said the following:

“Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done...America will never forget...” 

As I listened to this speech a few weeks ago, just over 9 years after the attack, I realized with a sad heart, that the President was wrong. We did forget. 

In the aftermath of the attack, emotions ran high. We attempted to figure out what had happened, wondered why anyone would do something so cruel and devastating to thousands of people, yet saw our country rebound in glorious unity and fortitude. Even in those aftershock moments, we would have found it hard to believe that we would or could ever forget the poignancy of that incident. 

We were tenaciously resolved to never forget the lives that were lost, resolved to ensure this didn't happen again, resolved to pay tribute to our fire fighters and rescue teams who gave their all to rescue the trapped and injured, resolved to do whatever was necessary to keep our country safe now and in the future. 

We rallied around President Bush’s declaration that the terror would end ‘here and now’. His popularity skyrocketed because in the hour of trauma every person needs a hero. That hero, general and commander was President Bush. He acknowledged the hour of crisis. He identified the enemy and the enemy's goal to ultimately wipe out and eliminate the country of freedom. President Bush pointed us to a horizon of hope yet told us in order to keep this horror from happening again we must go to the terrorist ground, go on the defensive and then go on the offensive. He put the right leaders in play, he put a plan together and in that hour no man, woman or child wished for another leader besides President Bush. He was the man for the hour. He had been prepared for the battle. 

The purpose for “remembering” is not to harbor un-forgiveness, hate or even retribution. The act of “recalling to ones memory” provides a marking point, a standard, a cause for reflection of what happened and what could happen again if we are not diligent and watchful. Remembering calls us to learn from those moments, to honor those involved, and to better identify a similar danger if something of that flavor would arise again. Remembering is oftentimes wise. And it is the wise thing that our culture has not done, is not doing, and could live to regret. 

The thing that is most dis-concerting to me in this hour, as a young Millennial, is how we live our lives as though there are no threats. We count on freedom always being ‘free’. We ignore the truth that evil does exist, not just in movies, but in real tangible every day life. We lack understanding that America is the country others around the world look to for freedom. 

By now I have heard the story of the frog in the boiling water more times than I want to count. But it’s truth remains: if you put a frog in a pan of water, and slowly turn up the heat the frog will not know when the water is boiling. And due to his ignorance of danger and oblivion to discomfort, he does not fight to survive and in the end will lose his life. 

While a frog may seem to diminish the real threat we face as a nation, the principle stands. 

The 9/11 attack did impact many people who still actively remember and live differently because of the revelation of that hour's activities. One of my closest friends made the decision to step into the world of politics, even as a teenager, as he saw what was taking place in New York on that fateful day. He understood that freedom isn’t free and the country needs citizen's involvement for the defense and preservation of our nation. He is one of many that if asked to stop and reflect, we will remember. The question is whether the act will be engaged. 

If we stop and ponder, all of us can tell you where we were. We can name someone we knew who was personally impacted by it. We remember sitting in the classrooms watching what was happening as Tom Brokaw brought us up to the minute news. We remember the emotion. The pictures. The sorrow. The confusion. 

But what we as a country do not do is remember actively, living like any of it could happen again. 

Slowly, yet with increasing speed, those with destructive intentions for the USA are infiltrating our system. They are attempting to blow up bases (Texas) or set off bombs in front of Christmas Trees (Oregon), blowing up railroad lines (Colorado), and airplanes (Detroit). Their intensity increases, their pace does not weaken and their rhythm does not miss a beat. 

Their leaders are slowly, winsomely attempting to implicate sharia law in America, in place of the American constitution. This frame work of law goes against everything our constitution stands for and it’s one of the main reasons why we have been such a great and successful nation! 

My fear is that you and I will wake up even in 6 months, 2 years, 10 years, 30 years and realize that this is no longer our country. But it is one that resembles more of the middle east, that it is a picture of the Islamic hand book for ruling America. And that the principles this country was founded on by the warriors who lived by those principles will not even be remembered. Why would this hall happen you ask? I would have to say: because all of us forget the threat and therefore ignore the fact that all of it is happening again. 

The good part of this conversation is that it has not been concluded. A conversation continues. A memory can be restored. And a torch for the defense of freedom can be seized again. The frog can awaken and realize the threat for his life, the man and woman can look about them and hear the battle cry and instead of encroachment, the enemy of liberty can shrink back in fear. But all of this comes with a choice which must follow by actions, and soon. 

President Bush ended his post 9/11 speech with this charge: 

“I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people. The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.

“Fellow citizens, we'll meet violence with patient justice -- assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America...”

Remembering must cause us to live differently, not in fear but in wisdom and in righteous guardianship of the nation we've been given by those who have gone before us. 

It is for freedom’s sake for this and the next generation, that we must remember.