Every year I feel this awful ambivalence on 9-11. I understand and appreciate the need to feel unified as a country and “NeverForget,” as the Twitter hashtag says. Then again, never forget what? The horror of that morning? Not to worry, it’s indelibly imprinted in the minds of all who were conscious that day—not to mention those of us who live in New York City. But after that it all kind of falls apart.
Never forget how great we are—as so many of today’s #NeverForget tweets demand? How resilient and unbending? How about, How nationalist and vengeful?
But loved this one: “#NeverForget that 1.57 billion people were forced to accept blame for the actions of the few,” this accompanied by a pie chart estimating Al-Qaeda with less than 10,000 members, the Taliban with 36,000 out of all 1.57 billion Muslims.
Or better yet, “#NeverForget God is in the business of disarming violence, not escalating it,” with a link to the Patheos Progressive Christian Newsletter entry “Things to #NeverForget on 9/11” by Episcopalian priest David R. Henson. An excerpt:
“But on this day, as a Christian, there are some other things I want us to never forget about 9/11 and the retaliatory War on Terror that happened in response.
On 9/11, 2,977 innocent Americans were killed by terrorists.
In the 14-year war on terror, 5,280 American soldiers were killed because of our country’s response to the 9/11 attacks.
Conservatively, reports estimate the War on Terror claimed 1.3 million lives in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Our war killed 5 percent of the Iraqi population, people who had zero ties to what actually happened on 9/11.
Our war killed at least 465 people for every person who died on 9/11. Some estimate we killed 670 or more per person.
Our war displaced 3 million Iraqi people.
Our war created 2.5 million Afghan refugees.
I posted a couple songs. Here’s the first–Alan Jackson’s No. 1 country hit, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning):
I always thought this was the best of the 9-11 song lot, far and away. Nothing vengeful or nationalist about it, unlike so many other country artists who would pull a trigger with little regard as to what gets hit. No, Alan’s just a simple man, asking simple yet profound questions:
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watchin’
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?
To me the chorus was so beautiful:
I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love.
Elvis Costello took me to task for favoring Alan over Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” which for me was so overwrought and symbolic. But I could understand his reasoning, that Alan, like so many Americans, should be knowledgeable and responsible enough to at least know the difference between Iraq and Iran.
I was at Billboard on 9-11, the music publishing editor then. Besides the predictable dusting off of Lee Greenwood’s patriotic chestnut “God Bless the USA,” the big song of the moment was “God Bless America.” I wrote a column about it, in which I suggested that as we returned to “the semblance of normal,” we also move “beyond understandably knee-jerk, ego/ethno centric fare.”
Woody Guthrie’s all-inclusive “This Land is Your Land” made sense, but Ashford & Simpson’s “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” made the most–then and now.
Reach out and touch somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place, if you can.
And the greatest is love.