New ideas, in no order, for observing what was and is and will always be a haunting day in American history, today, the Eleventh of September:
Cease referring to it as 9/11 and Nine Eleven and Nine One One, which are call numbers for emergencies of all sorts and do not distinguish this particular murderous emergency from all others, and begin referring to it as September Eleventh, or even perhaps simply The Eleventh, which has a gravitas suitable to the grievous shimmer of the day.
Cease using the actual name of the chief murderer, and refer to him simply as The Murderer. Let us call a thing by its true name. Fourteen years ago this morning, one man persuaded many other men to kill some 3,000 men, women, and children who were innocent of any crimes or bad intent against those who killed them. The premeditated killing of innocents is murder. It is not merely an event, or a tragedy, or a crisis, or an anniversary; it is mass murder, and it ought to be remembered that way, at least, and those who plotted and committed it should be called what they were, assassins.
Make the Eleventh a day when every American citizen of every color and religion and ethnicity and nationality and gender and race and status makes a point of saying thank you to a policeman, a policewoman, a fireman, a firewoman, a nurse, a doctor, an emergency medical technician, a soldier, a sailor, an airman, or a hospital orderly. Make the Eleventh a day we say thank you in person to someone who represents the extraordinary way that men and women rush to help others who are in desperate need. That rushing right at trouble is the very best of what we are as human beings.
Make the Eleventh a day when every newspaper and magazine and website and pundit and commentator and radio station and television station and Twitter feed makes a point of noting that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people who just want to get by and have jobs and raise their kids and not get shot at, and that any idiot who tries to turn Americans against Muslims is adamantly on the side of The Murderer, who, by the way, oversaw the murder of more Muslims than any other single force in the world over the last 20 years.
The Murderer set out, deliberately and consciously, to strike a blow against freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom to choose and marry whomever you love, freedom of travel, freedom of enterprise, and the freedom to live your life creatively in any way you choose, within the general bounds of decency and safety. He claimed he was striking a blow in defense of his beloved religion against its oppressor. His claim was empty and false. Not one of the 3,000 people who were murdered was oppressing him or his fellow murderers or anyone else. Therefore let us observe the Eleventh annually as a day to respond to him and his ilk, saying we will defend ourselves and our way of life, and we will do so with untrammeled freedom of religion, speech, assembly, travel, enterprise, and love, because we believe people rise to their best selves when they are free, and we believe that you and your ilk are fools who are terrified of freedom, and wish to steal it from the free peoples of the world. And additionally we believe that your waving of the religious flag is a joke, for your own Prophet, blessed he his name, said To you be your religion, and to me be mine, and Let be there no compulsion in religion.
Finally let us remember that on The Eleventh, 14 years ago, eight children were murdered, sitting on airplanes with people they loved. We could do a lot worse, on this freighted weighted day every year, than to turn it into a day when we make a special effort to attend to children, and play with them, and laugh with them, and savor their zest and verve. Not only might that make our country a little more liable to actually protect and educate and help children—rather than merely drape ourselves in the hollow words family values, as we do every election season—but it would also somehow be a bolt of joy against a sneer and stab of horror, a quiet insistence that love can and will defeat murderers of every stripe, wherever it is they squirm in the dark.
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