Mostly I’ve avoided the coverage of the 10 year anniversary—consciously and subconsciously. I had a personal connection that I’ve written about on this day in past years, but somehow this year I almost can’t bear to write—or read another word—a feeling expressed in the brave and beautiful words of a 9/11 widow.
Yet in the weeks leading up to 9/ 11, I’ve been immersed in the historical perspective of tragedy—–one much further in place and time and of greater magnitude.
Starting with a book I read a few weeks ago called the Invisible Bridge-–with Sarah’s Key in the middle and ending with In the Garden of Beasts, about Berlin in the years during Hitler’s rise to power—I’ve been steeped in fictional and real stories of the Holocaust.
I’m not trying to draw a parallel with 9/11 but I can’t help seeing a common theme—-how much we humans need to remember to Never Forget.
I also can’t help seeing another connection. Being born less than 10 years after World War II ended, awareness was part of my consciousness as a Jew, and a human being. I grew up believing all Germans were enemies, and I was a target. Could it happen here?
As a college student I sat in a Munich beer hall wondering if the congenial group of older men sharing my table had been Nazi soldiers.
Years later, I met a man who actually had been a German soldier in the war.
That man was a doctor who had emigrated to the United States; a remarkable scientist and human being, he was the man who saved my life when I had cancer.
Normally when I write a post I try to draw some conclusion or lesson from it. This time I’m not sure what my point is. I have more questions than answers about what I’m trying to express.
Something about being human means we don’t want to forget; but also part of being human is being able to forgive.
This stems from a provocative post I just read, mixed in with the Holocaust reading and movies—(Here’s the link; it’s well worth reading.) The concept is that our response to 9/11 over 10 years has bankrupted our country —financially and morally. In the days following 9/11 when the nation and the world drew together, what might have resulted had we chosen to continue and expand on that spirit?
The author’s point is that there is no end to the human cycle of revenge. It’s something to think about.
As individuals and a society—we require justice—to function and survive. So is it possible that we can Never Forget—And Forgive?
The concept that our response to 9/11 over 10 years ago was simply revenge and has bankrupted the country both financially and morally would be more correct if you would date that statement to 8 years ago, 2003, the year we invaded Iraq. Attacking Al Qaeda and their hosts the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 was not initially an act of revenge. It was a strategic response to a military attack. The world was with the America for that, as it should have been. It did not turn against the America until Iraq. The attack on Iraq was not simply revenge. It was even worse. The greatest strategic blunder in American military history was done for something far more banal: to gain domestic political advantage. With the defection of Sen Jim Jeffords the Republicans had lost what they thought they had won in the last election, a majority in both houses of Congress. Their decision to invade Iraq, a country and its government that they knew had absolutely nothing to with the 9/11 attacks was designed to help get the Senate back. It worked. For that lowly act of placing loyalty to party above loyalty to country the Bush administration deserves contempt. If the full resources of the great U.S. military had been sent where it belonged, to Afghanistan, not to Iraq, Osama bin Laden and most of the Al Qaeda leadership would have been caught or killed at Tora Bora in December, 2001 and the Afghan War would have ended then and there.
marla wentner says
A very thoughtful post, Darryle. And Richard’s response was extremely well written and thought provoking, as well. I do think it is possible to never forget, but to forgive. People do it all the time in smaller ways, i.e., marital affairs, etc., so it certainly should be possible on a larger scale.
I, like you, have been reading many holocaust-based books, including In The Garden of Beasts and Sarah’s Key. The movie, “Sarah’s Key”, is worth seeing, as well, with Kristin Scott Thomas doing her usual superb job. That time period is so horrific, but that doesn’t mean that an entire people, generation after generation, shoudl be blanketed with blame. Your doctor is a good case in point. Think of the good he has done and will do. Anyway, just wanted to thank you for making me have a lot to think about on this day.
Darryle Pollack says
Absolutely right and incredibly well said. Thank you.
Darryle Pollack says
Thanks so much, Marla. I don’t know why but I found myself avoiding all the coverage of 9/11 this year—just didn’t want to re-live it or think about it. Maybe it’s the weight of what I’ve been reading lately. Very coincidental we’ve chosen the same books and time frame lately–I saw the movie “Sarah’s Key” first, and it affected me so much I had to read the book. I don’t think I’ve been so immersed in reading about the Holocaust since I was obsessed as a teenager. Did you read “The invisible bridge”? That’s the one that started me on this track—but I’m ready for something lighter for sure.