Pull Your Soapbox Right On Up To The Table

TreeBeauty

9/11.

A day we Americans stop and pause in a moment of silence, in a day of remembering.

Let me be clear about this: I mean no disrespect when I tell you that as much as I enjoy the stories of where you were and what you were doing when you heard, I want more. I want to remember with a wider lens. I want to move forward as we look back. I want . . .

I want to know what you learned on That Day or because of That Day.

I want to know how you changed since 9/11. I want to know if it’s a lasting change or was it a well-intended but short-lived change.

I want to know how you think our country changed on That Day and if you think it changed for better or for worse.

I want to know how you think the world changed on That Day, and again – did it change for better or for worse?

I want to know why countries and people can’t leave each other alone to live according to their own belief and economic and political/governmental systems. I want to know why people don’t just move to another location that suits them better rather than strike out in a desire to take down those who would not be, think, or worship like them. I want to know why it’s not enough to live with Epictetus’s notion in mind that a noble life is one spent being the best woman, the best man you can be. I want to know what it will take to end the conquering mentality, the arrogance of my-way-or-the-highway mindset.

I want to know how we teach people that the way to change an undesirable life is to push up your shirtsleeves and get to work changing what you don’t like about your current situation. Will that be easy? Most likely not. But since when do we turn away from hard work? Which reminds me of another thing I want to know: when did “earn” become a 4-letter word?

I want to know how – on a community level, state level, national, continent level – we instill in ourselves and our children open-mindedness, and not just a tolerance but a love for difference and individuality. How? Tell me how. Please.

So much of what we hear and read today will be about lives lost on That Day. I want you to tell me about your loved ones (people and/or pets welcomed) that have died. Maybe they died in that horribleness we’ve come to call 9/11. Maybe they died somewhere else for some other reason on that infamous day. Maybe they died before the tragedy, maybe they’ve died since. Tell me about them. Tell me why you miss them and how they touched your life. Introduce me to them and tell me why you wish I could have known them. Tell me and know that your missing them today does not in any way diminish the tenderness we feel for all those who lost their lives and whose lives were irrevocably changed on That Day.

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Jeanne Hewell-Chambers has a wildly inquiring mind. Always has.

9 Comments

  1. sarah

    I felt more connected to all other beings on that day, tracing my own neural pathways to see if they could lead to the behaviors seen and reported around me, investigating the how come and how could of that day. I am still astonished at the way people hold tight to what they want to feel about that day, turning memory into mythology.

    For me the blue sky, the crisp air, the cloud over my head in the sunlight, the debris of living and dying, the way strangers hugged on the subway trains, the solemnity and celebration of daily tasks for weeks: these are the cut crystal beads on a necklace I can put on or take off.

    It’s a bit like watching ants building and rebuilding their hills. I stand attentive, occasionally in the path of the marching armies.

    This was a good bit of thinking to run into in the middle of my day. Sometimes the job of asking questions takes over the moment … sometimes it is the job to release the answers into the breeze and let those wisps go.

    • whollyjeanne

      beautiful, my friend. i get goosebumps reading this. i continue to ask the questions in hopes of preventing history from repeating itself. in hopes that one day we might try something new. the questions just won’t let go of me, though i’m not sure there are answers. “turning memory into mythology” – especially love that phrase. and feeling more connected – yes, thank you for reminding me of what i felt that day, too.

  2. Mark

    I know the terrorists won on a level they couldn’t possibly have imagined when they took their flight classes, wrapped themselves tight in their hate and crazy and zealotry. I know this country isn’t the same place it was before 9/11 and I miss that place. I know that we have become a nation of fear, where everyone is afraid, where scary monsters are everywhere, where critical, rational, thoughtful discussion is suspect if not outright scorned. The evidence of this is apparent at airports everywhere. Try coming back into the US from Canada or Mexico with only a driver’s license. No matter if you’re a Citizen or not, you have to have a Passport to GET BACK IN to our nation. Think about that for a moment…and tremble.

    I know the whack-a-do’s who crashed those planes, killed those people, destroyed those buildings and landmarks and crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania killed our country as sure as if they had dropped thermonuclear bombs on every state. They made us afraid and we blinked. All of us.

    They wanted to bring us to our knees and we let them. In our terror that we would be in a plane or in a building that was hit, we fell to our knees collectively and surrendered our pride, our liberty, our very beings to cower in safety and tremble in Fear.

    We deserve whatever happens to us.

    • whollyjeanne

      I happen to agree with you – surprised? I especially agree with you about this now being a land where “critical, rational, thoughtful discussion is suspect if not outright scorned.” That bothers/scares/angers me most of all because like Tom (Smith) and I have been talking about: herds can be controlled, thinking people cannot.
      I shiver when I read your last line “We deserve whatever happens to us.” I don’t want to agree with that, and yet I’m not sure whether I do or don’t. Does that make sense?
      Over on twitter you apologized for your comment being a downer – please don’t. I find it refreshing in its honesty and quite thought-provoking conversation . . . something I never get nearly enough of, especially about such a volatile subject. So thank you for that, too. Like I told Tom, we may disagree on some of the finer points/details, but when it comes to the essence, I ‘spect we’ll find we are quite closely aligned. Same goes for you. May we always feel comfortable enough to speak our minds, even if we don’t agree with what’s being said. We have to keep independent thinking skills and freedom of speech alive. I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to live in a different system, I’d move. I don’t like everything that happens here, but I can’t for the life of me think of anywhere else I’d want to live. Is that the effects of long-term propaganda speaking? Maybe. But maybe not.
      The main thing is: long live freedom in all its forms and may we continue to talk about the important things so that we don’t have to keep learning the same lessons over and over and over for another thousand years or so.

      • Mark

        I struggle so much with knee-jerk cynicism. I felt at that time that my reaction was overly cynical, bleak and a case of finding the worst in people because that’s what I was looking for. Depression will do that to a person and an outlook.

        That said, after a couple of months I am still convinced that there is a stark and tragic truth to what I wrote. I am so incredibly saddened by this realization. I sometimes think we weren’t driven to our knees by fear but we fell there and forgot how to get up.

        I often wonder what the so-called “Greatest Generation” would think of all of this nonsense and hand-wringing?

  3. moon glitter

    I have sat with this one for a while.
    There are a lot of words that could go into telling you where I think we have gone.

    Most of those words however would be dark, and angry words, because I still feel a great deal of rage whenever i think of those days..
    Rage not at the terrorists, who foolishly bought an ideal that they were willing to kill and die for.. we all know people who will kill and die for an ideal that they believe is right.
    More the rage is directed at our government, at the people who in their fear gave away their freedoms. Rage at the idiots in office who thought war would solve anything, and still think that.
    How many more people will die for freedoms that we give away every day?
    But I let the rage pass away.
    It serves only my impotence.

    Instead I will tell you that i still think of the courage , caring and commitment of the people who rose up to help. Of all the people who donated blood, so much blood that for the first time in this countries history, we had more surplus blood then we had ever had.
    I will tell you of the stories of have read of the survivors who lived to dedicate their lives to making the world a brighter place, in small ways..
    because we do rise from the ashes of our folly, thats how we are made.
    And Thank heaven for that…
    ~smile~

    • whollyjeanne

      I share your rage – rage at the freedoms we lost in a knee jerk reaction, freedoms and credibility we continue to lose. Yes, we both sing that rage. I love that you remember and talk of those who pitched in to help so selflessly. I smile at the memory . . . and scratch my head as to why it takes such an enormous, long-reaching tragedy to bring that out in us.

  4. Tari

    I realized that, had I been sitting in the second tower with the voice from the PA system telling me to stay at my desk, saying the danger was in the other tower, all the while knowing in my gut that I needed to remove myself, I would have done the “good girl” thing and stayed at my desk, following the instructions of the unknown voice in the sky. I realized that I would have ignored my instinct for self-preservation, that same instinct that has never steered me wrong, and I vowed to myself that I would live the rest of my life believing in myself and my instincts. When I get home, I’ll send you a copy of the essay I wrote that day.

    • whollyjeanne

      Wait . . . You were THERE? Wow, my friend. Wow. SOOOO glad you listened to your instincts – I listen to my bones, and was talking to a friend today (we’re planning a retreat – I’ll tell you all about it later), and I told her I live by my bones. Finally. Bones, Instinct – why did we wait so long to listen? I’m so glad you did, Sugar. So, so, so. Who would walk with me had you been a good girl That Day?
      Don’t forget to send me that essay. I can’t wait to read it. We still need to Skype. Soon. xo

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