Stop Trying to Take the Politics Out of 9/11
Politicians did not speak at the 9/11 memorial service in New York City for the first time this year, after organizers decided they wanted to honor “the victims and their families in a way free of politics” — an aim that I don’t think can or should be done.
As the AP reported, politicians have been using the memorial service as a campaigning platform from the start, using certain TV ads and making sure they play a part in the ceremonies.
The AP continued:
When Republicans scheduled their 2004 national convention in New York City less than two weeks before the anniversary, some victims' relatives accused the GOP of using Sept. 11 as a political backdrop. And some family members and firefighters objected that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani would bring politics into the ceremony by participating in 2007, when he was a Republican presidential candidate.
Charles G. Wolf, who lost his wife on 9/11, told AP:
We've gone past that deep, collective public grief … I think that the politicians don't need to be there, personally. ... It can be just us. That's the way that it can be now.
Now, I can understand why 9/11 victims’ family members would not want to listen to politicians basically campaign and pat themselves on the back for "keeping our country safe" and what not. But what is worrisome is the families' desire to remember 9/11 in a “way free of politics.”
Removing the personal from the political cannot be done. Everything is political, from relationships to the weather — I really can’t think of anything that isn’t. Now, take 9/11. In my generation at least, there’s no event more political than this. Though personal and political are never separate, people can work to try to separate them. They can try to delude themselves, and they can try to avoid their own guilt for being complicit in the U.S. policies that led up to the tragedy.
But there are ghosts of 9/11 that linger.
As political activist and former professor Ward Churchill stated in his notable essay “The Ghosts of 9-1-1,” the ghosts of the half-million Iraqi children, all under 12, who were killed by U.S. bombs during the decade prior to 9/11, haunt. And there are countless other ghosts haunting us when we think of what sparked 9/11. And now, as our wars in the Middle East ravage on, we add up to a million more angry spirits.
Our complicity continues to chill all the facts we face and everything we know about the suffering we cause.
As Churchill stated:
There is a vast difference between not knowing and not caring and if Good Americans have difficulty appreciating the distinction, it must be borne in mind that there are others in the world, who are quite unburdened by such intellectual impairments.
Thus, any attempt to ignore the politics of 9/11 is an attempt to claim innocence. And those we oppress know exactly what happens when the majority of Americans feel innocent: we wipe our hands clean. We forget about the blood on our hands, and it’s all business as usual.
No, we don’t need politicians spouting their mouths during 9/11’s memorial services. After all they claim innocence, too, and are heavily complicit in, if not, a catalyst for the sufferings we continue to cause. But there are other ways to keep the memory of 9/11 political. There are ways to take personal grief and use it for political change — to demand that no one be killed by a bomb again, and to fight for an end to imperialism.