Sunday, September 12, 2010

a people without history is not redeemed from time

Well, hey, September 12th.

I think I meant to write something yesterday, something about mourning and loss and how remembering shouldn't equal revenge, so on and so forth, but I didn't.

Anyway. Here's what I always think about on September 11.

I'm an ex-New Yorker. I lived on Long Island til I was 13, and for those people who don't think that's significant, well, you can take the girl out of New York, blah blah. My family roots are there--both sides of my family came over in the early 1900s from Italy, went through Ellis Island, settled in Brooklyn (my dad's side) and the Bronx (my mom's side). After World War II, they moved out to LI. My mom and dad grew up there, left for college, came back, and met each other. My aunt worked in the World Trade Center when I was a kid, and my grandfather was a Brooklyn firefighter. So. In 2001, I was a senior in high school up in Massachusetts, and when our principal got on the loudspeaker to tell us about the first plane crashing into the first Tower, my reaction was to run down to the main office and call my mom to make sure that we didn't know anyone who worked there.

Mourning and loss: I mourned for a city that I didn't appreciate while I lived there ('cause what kid really wants to be dragged to the Met on a perfectly good sunny Saturday?). Later on, I mourned for a country that seemed to be growing more jingoistic and hateful as days passed. I walked around with my hands painted red in March 2003 to symbolize "blood on our hands"--seven years later, we still do.  I mourn now for a country that is directing hatred toward a group of people who had nothing to with the violence perpetrated nine years ago.

I want to end not with my words, but Seamus Heaney's. This is from his version of the play The Cure at Troy.

Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home

History says, Don't hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
or lightning and storm
and a god speaks from the sky,

That means someone is hearing
the outcry and the birth-cry 
of new life at its term.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I see a bumper sticker that says "We will never forget" or something along those lines and I cringe. If by never forgetting, we nurture anger and hatred, then the best thing we can do is forget, for the dead and for ourselves.