Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On This September 11th

It is hard to ignore the significance of September 11th in U.S. history.  As a New Yorker, this day really resonates and stands out as something that made me (ten years old at the time) very confused and afraid, and even more confused and afraid when I saw those feelings reflected in the adults around me who were supposed to know what was going on.  I remember how, for a moment there, this whole nation was united in feeling the loss and the vulnerability and the fear.

But that was one attack for us.  I'm not trying to downplay the magnitude, I'm just trying to put things in perspective.  There are places where attacks like the one we experienced on 9.11.2001 are not as rare an occurrence.   Furthermore, (and I can't believe this still needs to be said eleven years later) that attack was not the fault of every Muslim in this or any country.  The loss of life may have been great on that day, but we show ourselves to be much weaker when our response to something like that is not to build ourselves up again but, rather, to single out and persecute innocent people for their faith and practices in a country where religious freedom is supposed to be part of the most basic foundation.

I say this as a New Yorker.  I say this as a girl who spent the night of that September 11th literally not knowing if her father (who worked on Wall Street) was ever coming home again:

This Islamophobia thing we've got going on in this country- something which was always basically lurking but had a chance to really flourish after the attacks of 9.11- needs to STOP.  Not only is it harmful; it is also illogical.  It is ridiculous to hold up Islam as an example of a religion which is spread through violence, as people like to say, but ignore that whole thing called the Inquisition and that bit about Manifest Destiny.  And, for fans of more recent history, certain shootings which were the result of Christian extremists... but nobody seems to want to refer to those.

The fact is that religious faith, in its very essence, requires some kind of zealotry, some kind of passion, and when that sort of thing is taken too far (in the name of ANY religion) it can result in a body count.  This is a frightening reality but it is not a reality that is limited to Muslims.  We need to get over ourselves.

I, myself, am queer and am obviously going to hell and/or its counterpart in a bevvy of religions according to various people.  So don't come telling me that there are some religions that are founded on hate and violence and others that aren't.  No.  It's more like religions were formed to explain oddities in nature and to give people hope.  Those stories and beliefs then evolved into the stuff that we see today.  There are people who use their faith as an excuse to reach out and love people and to find the strength to carry on throughout their lives.  That is good and humane and hurts no one when it is pure.  And then there are the ones who use their religion as an excuse to hate certain groups of people- and that is so backwards, I cannot believe they don't see how inherently wrong that is for themselves.

The same goes for the memory of September 11th.  I think that if people want to use this day to commemorate the loss of life on so grand a scale and to reflect on the events that soon followed in a way that makes them value life more, then that's beautiful and wonderful and they should do that.  But do not use this day for your hate.  DO NOT use this moment as an excuse to harass and persecute those who face the harassment and persecution daily because it makes you feel better.  That is weak.  That is reprehensible.  And that is the opposite of what anyone needs right now.

1 comment:

  1. I was 24 at the time, working (and living) in Brooklyn. My job wasn't too far from Ground Zero, 2 or 3 train stops away, definitely walking distance, which I did many times thanks to the Brooklyn Bridge.

    The promenade in Brooklyn Heights had many vigils (flowers, candles, signs, etc) and I remember reading one sign that said something to the effect of, "Let us not use this to hate our Muslim neighbors and friends" and that was back in 2001.

    And then there was the grassroots project, "Not in Our Name" that was active from 2002-2008 which had the same message.