Sunday, September 11, 2011

Friday Five: 9/11 ten years later

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Remembering 9/11 - EveningAs I sat in the cafeteria and waited for my lunch to go from frozen to semi-edible in the microwave, a girl in a blazer and jeans walked between the chairs with Sharpies asking if anyone was interested in signing a banner for first responders from 9/11. Most of the students turned her down and grimaced in a way most of us reserve for slimy used car salesmen.
Talk about one of those times you wonder, "Why do I work here, again?"

To me, that's unacceptable coming from people attending a public institution of higher learning. If it weren't for people like those first responders now and throughout history, we wouldn't have public colleges, and the ones we would have wouldn't be open to everyone. The United States isn't perfect, and plenty of us have had rotten experiences with law enforcement, and we've seen the military and our politicians do some despicable things. I'm not saying it's a perfect place, but as a middle-class woman, I wouldn't trade it for the alternatives.

In a somewhat futile attempt to maintain my sanity and motivation, I tried to formulate a more generous explanation for the way these students behaved and the only one I could come up with is that they weren't old enough to understand what was going on ten years ago. Some of them were only twelve. Maybe for them, it was just good television, like the guy who blew his brains out on live TV when I was growing up in Los Angeles. I guess it's just not real to them. They don't remember a world where you could go to the airport without being felt up or renew a driver's license in New Jersey without personally coming to the Motor Vehicles Commission and presenting "six points" worth of original documents to verify your identity. You don't know your world's upside down if you've never seen it right side up. Maybe that's what's wrong with them.

Before I get angrier and sadder about this, here's this week's Friday Five: 9/11 ten years later.

  1. Paul Reickhoff wrote Chasing Ghosts after he returned from a protracted tour in Iraq as a member of the National Guard. He also founded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) to provide support and advocacy for veterans who returned home with untreated PTSD, under-treated head injuries, as well as jobs and families that had left them behind.
  2. Patricia McCormick wrote Purple Heart, a YA novel about the realities faced by young men and women in combat.
  3. The Obama administration released guidelines for September 11 observances.
  4. The F-16 sent to intercept United Airlines Flight 93 was unarmed. If the passengers hadn't crashed the plane, the other pilot would have been on her own Kamikaze mission.
  5. Since I couldn't bring myself to finish this post until today, National Public Radio is currently doing a live blog of the September 11th Commemoration events. Their home page also has quick links to features from the day of the attacks including Bush's original address to the nation.
I apologize if anything here sounds too harsh. Given the current economic and political climate around the world, and in the United States, I think it's more important than ever to remember that we can't take anything for granted. Take some chances and live your life fully and passionately. Appreciate your loved ones. Advocate for your freedom and for the freedom of those who are not as fortunate as you.
We've all lost plenty of freedom already post-9/11 in the interest of (supposedly) fighting terrorism. As we get closer to Banned Books Week, it's worth noting that freedom of speech is a right we need to fight for every day because of fellow citizens who want to challenge this right! In practical terms, does it really make a huge difference if a teenager can or can't find a copy of Speak in her school library? It's hard to say. School libraries can't purchase every book that comes out or keep every book they buy, and teenagers can be extremely resourceful when it comes to getting what they want. I'm confident that as long as it's in print, Speak will find its way to the teens who need it. I don't think that question should be raised because a group of parents who don't even read want to decide what can and can't be discussed in our schools because of their "moral" objections to the content.

I'll leave you with a quote from my favorite comedian, George Carlin. It's not about banned books. It's about school uniforms, but his association with school uniforms is the same one I have for banned books---think piles of burning books, burning bodies and Mein Kampf.
“School uniforms…bad theory. The idea that if kids wear uniforms to school it helps keep order. Don’t these schools do enough damage, making all these kids think alike? Now they’re gonna get ‘em to look alike too? And it’s not a new idea. I first saw it in old news reels from the 1930s. But it’s kinda hard to understand ‘cause the narration’s in German.”