Sunday, September 11, 2016

The names speak

We went to where it happened on a clear morning in August, the kind that brings up an ache even 15 years after that murderous September day. It is a lush, contemplative place now, with shade trees and benches and the two reflecting pools, water spilling down the sides like silver murmuring embroidery.

Two pools, two peaceful footprints where the towers stood that day. And around them the names etched in smooth slanting steel, all those names, all those lost and blameless souls.

Pretty soon, the names are all you see.

Pretty soon, the lovely twin footprints fade. So does the triumphant rise of One World Trade Center, glittering in the sun just north of the north pool. The world narrows. You look down. And you find yourself reading off the names as you walk slowly around the pools, wondering who they were, what their lives were like, how it can be that you keep walking and walking and walking and the names never seem to end.

The names are Diaz and Bachman and Vicario, White and Miller and Lee. There are Morrises and Singhs and Benvenios, Doanys and Bonnetts and Roaches. And, yes, names like this, too: Mohammed Shajahan.

Which is to say, hate is ecumenical.

Hate killed Christians and Jews and, yes, Muslims, that day. It killed whites and blacks and Asians and Hispanics. It is a lesson we need to remember this day, a home truth to which we need to hold fast especially in this ugly, interminable election season, when unprincipled megalomaniacs use fear and loathing and blatant falsehoods to con the easily conned.

The most blatant of those falsehoods: That we can make ourselves safe from all future 9/11s by making an entire religion suspect, instead of acknowledging the harder truth that those who killed so many on 9/11 are  not adherents to any religion. They are simply barbarians whose only God is death.

And so making all Muslims suspect because the barbarians claim it as their faith is a fool's enterprise that only demeans America and what it stands for, making it safer only in the sense that it makes us less American. America is an idea to the barbarians, and there is only one way to kill an idea. That's by making its defenders diminish it themselves.

But 9/11 should have taught us the folly of that. It should have taught us that our enemies are enemies of all of us, not just Judeo-Christians. If that were not so, our enemies would not have killed so indiscriminately that day, would not even now be targeting and killing Muslims far more prolifically than they do anyone else.

The names, all those names upon names, are our witnesses to that.

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