Why do we have to remember?

Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

During this annual compulsion to “never forget”, I go with it.  I agree, it’s folly to just forget the most critical moments and decisions that formed our current situation.  I argue that we must remember more than just the wicked men who hijacked those planes.  We must also remember the way people in power used and abused that moment to promote their own agendas.

We were told that the world was teeming with bad guys, preparing to strike us again, anytime, anywhere.  We started a war against terror.  In other words, we started a war that could never be won.  Bombs and bullets only create misery and resentment.  We were bombing the enemy and creating enemies with bombs.  We may as well have just fought a fire with a spray of gasoline.

The problem with remembering all of this is that, over time, our memories fade.  They morph into something unreliable.  The events of that day are now colored with our current knowledge.  And our current knowledge is formed like putty by those who want it remembered a certain way.  Yes, thousands of innocents died that day.  It was turned into a rallying cry. “Never Forget.”

Why don’t we also use that rallying cry to remember the tens of thousands who died and the hundreds of thousands who suffered because of our flawed and misguided response?  We are all people and we all suffer equally.  What we did to our own country and other countries was mistaken.  

Because of our own actions in response, the terrorists won.  We’ve let ourselves become afraid.  We don’t trust anyone that looks different.  We lash out with bombs and war.  Our soldiers and their families suffer from long absences.  We are less free.

The real fight is for our own country and its soul.  Who do we really want to be?  How did we become like this?  How do we never let this happen again?  We must Never Forget who we were and what we’re capable of becoming.  We can be a beacon again.  There is such potential for greatness, and I still have hope.  We can become greater than we are now.  I really, really hope we do.

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