Jewish World Review August 1, 2002 / 23 Menachem-Av, 5762
9-11 anniversary shouldn't come with apology
With the anniversary of Sept. 11 six weeks away, plans to observe the day are falling into place -- some less gracefully than others. While we may anticipate mourners' wreaths, hymns, and moments of silence punctuated by taps to set the day apart for remembrance and renewal, we may also expect other, less decorous commemorations.
Exercises are also planned to assess Sept. 11 not as an act of an ongoing war, but rather as a kind of marker of personal growth. On a college campus in Indiana, for example, The New York Times reports that students will participate in workshops on Sept. 10 to "re-create what they were thinking and doing on that date last year" and consider "in hindsight, how narrow their views of the world were." Some educators expect to turn the one-year anniversary of chaos and carnage into what they call a "teachable moment" to debate U.S. foreign policy, the meaning of terrorism and the fundamentals of Islam.
Such lessons may smack dyspeptically of transforming a day of infamy into a day of empathy, but the approach seems to fall into line with the networks' Sept. 11 plans for blanket coverage, which the experts are already hailing as "good therapy."
"Folks will be able to see that other people are struggling with this and recovering," the Newseum's Margaret Engel told the New York Post, lapsing easily into the 12-step patois to discuss the historic attack. "Frankly," she continued, "people are still looking for direction in their lives as a result of this massive assault." No word on whether either academia or the media will be looking to our brave men and women in uniform as Americans who have managed to find plenty of "direction" post Sept. 11.
Perhaps the most outre commemoration is the effort to see the anniversary of the terrorist attack in the name of Islam as the historic moment to embrace Islam. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill decided last January to require incoming freshmen to read "something related to September 11" and, fantastically enough, chose excerpts from the Koran. Whether the lesson comes off as planned is unclear now that the institution faces a lawsuit for allegedly violating the separation of church and state.
Meanwhile, everything remains on track for the leftist National Council of Churches' "Open Doors" project. This program urges Christian congregations "to hold interfaith open houses on or around September 11, 2002, thus commemorating the first anniversary of the attacks by extending hospitality to their Muslim neighbors." The NCC provides an open-house how-to guide at www.ncccusa.org, offering not only "Help to Find Muslims Living Near You," but also "Basic Facts About Islam." (These are "basic" to the point of babyish, with one definition of jihad, for example, a contemporary slogan of murderous incitement against both the United States and Israel, boiling down to "working against injustice or oppression in society."
"Sometimes," the NCC primer prattles on, "this external form of jihad can include using armed force, within prescribed ethical limits.")
Such hospitality may sound almost swell and even mighty Christian, but should it be a salient spiritual response to Sept. 11? As Charles Krauthammer wrote last November, there is something demeaning about what he called "the great post-Sept. 11 oddity: Deafening silence from the spiritual authorities of Islam, obsessive chatter from Americans, largely Christian, filling that silence with near-apologetic professions of good faith and tolerance."
And there still is -- particularly as the means by which to mark the anniversary of the horrific day. Sept. 11, 2002 should be free of false notes, a day on which not to trumpet American tolerance so much as to reflect on what it takes to defend it.
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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Diana West