Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reflections on a Memorial

On the way back from Lancaster, we made a detour from the usual route to go visit the Flight 93 Memorial in Somerset, Pennsylvania.I was originally planning on writing a post about the tourism of death, but I think I'll plan that for another time.

As I'm writing, I'm actually holed up from the cold in the temporary exhibit near the crash site. It's even more desolate with no one else around.

This exhibit has also provoked no end of discussion and to some extent argument in our group. In the almost ten years that have passed since the events of September 11th, and in that intervening time, I've come into my political own. In an area like this, political argument is bound to happen. To make this even more poignant, I'm writing this in the wake of the revolutions taking place in the Middle East.

History is an ever-changing story. In a situation like this, it's even more difficult to write the history, as it's being written as we speak. The September 11th attacks were not an isolated event in Middle East relations. It's part of a system that has it's roots in centuries of religious and ideological conflict. While I agree the site should be commemorated, it should not be a jingoistic monument, as I am afraid it is going to be. Instead, this could provide a place of understanding, which would show how the conflict developed, and hopefully, allow for reflections on how it can be resolved.

In a case like this, where the event being commemorated is still a fresh wound, emotions are going to naturally run extremely high. It is also going to be difficult to write this history, as the United States situation in the Middle East is on a constantly changing footing. In a situation like this, we need to be careful in what manner we commemorate things like this. International diplomacy is a tricky business, and there is no conceivable end, especially with the need for oil, for the United States involvement in the Middle East. This means the next generation is going to inherit the situation that we give them. We need to teach the next generation to be politically involved, and to think for themselves. If they learn only jingoism, that will never happen, and we will have no one to blame for it but ourselves.

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