Wednesday, September 11, 2013

In Re: 9-11... Do This In Rememberance

It is a strange accident of the English language that words with completely different origins can form connections as they are blended into the rainbow of our dictionary. So it is with remember -  from the Latin rememor: to bring back to mind -  and dismember - from the Latin desmembre: to separate the parts.

Because of their similar sound in modern English, the two words are connected in a way that seems especially meaningful today.

To dismember is to tear apart, to divide, to reduce. To be dismembered is to find yourself disconnected and disjointed. So much of what was true about you yesterday is no longer true today. You can no longer do things the way you used to do them. It is often violent, brutal, and cruel. It is always catastrophic. The one who is dismembered is changed forever.

In this vein, the word remember suggests a restoration of what is lost. Reconnection. Reconcilliation. Redemption. True, the literal meaning of the word remember is about calling something back to your mind or a return to mindfulness, but by virtue of the connection that English provides, the word is much richer than that. It is much more than a mental or emotional exercise. To remember is to take on the difficult task of rebuilding what has been destroyed.

On this terrible day of remembrance, we fly our flags, keep or moments of silence, say our prayers, and change our Facebook profile pictures, promising to never forget. But that is only the first step in remembrance. The question we must answer is this: now that we are once again holding that day in our memory, what are we going to do to respond, restore, and return to a way of life that honors the best parts of our nature that were revealed in the smoke of that dreadful morning?

Revenge? Retribution? Retaliation? These too are distant cousins of remembrance. But revenge often proves to be a cold and unsatisfying meal. The punishment of our enemies can never restore what we have lost.

Only remembrance can do that.

Not in a literal sense. Nothing we can do will make it September 10th again. The broken bodies and sense of safety of that long ago yesterday will never return. Nothing will ever give meaning to the deaths in New York and Washington and Shanksville. But we can restore ourselves. We can reveal our best nature, not our worst. We can imitate those courageous First Responders by showing up at the pile with courage and strength and love: forces more powerful and more noble than fear and rage.

I believe the scripture that teaches us we were made in the image of our Creator. We are creatures of light, imitations of the Love of God. The people who did the murders of September 11 were angry and frightened. They saw their world in danger and lashed out with hatred and violence. Not long after, many in my country did the same thing. The corridors of Hell roar with laughter when the children of God use the tools of Satan against one another. Hundreds of thousands of families, children, parents, lovers, have been separated, wounded, tortured, killed all over the world in the wake of September 11.

Humankind. Dismembered.

On this anniversary of horror and fear, may God grant us the courage to truly reconsider... the strength to do the work of responders... the compassion to restore what can be restored... that we might one day know the joy of redemption: a world once sold to fear, bought back with love.

Never forget? No never.

But more importantly, with God's help, we will always remember.


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