I dislike the to-do of September 11th each year. I cannot say I hate it, because I don’t, but I do not like it. This probably makes me sound like a severely unpatriotic ass-face, but all I can say to defend myself is that it comes with the territory of being a high school student in 2001 who so quickly became desensitized to the media coverage and sudden nationalism of the United States of America.
On September 11th 2011 I was in AP Spanish class when I found out about New York. It was one of few days that year that I did not despise my teacher. I watched the TV monitor, the smoke and flames, instead of conversing in Spanish and being reminded that the only thing that would save me on the AP exam would be my writing ability. Apparently I couldn’t speak worth a dime. I don’t remember if we even had a lesson that day. My classmate turned to me with wide eyes and said, “It’s going to be WWIII. All of our men are going to be sent off to war.”
I was pretty numb from the beginning. It was media overload and nothing so tragic had ever happened in my lifetime. I slowly came to digest the scope of what had happened, I watched the news coverage with my parents, talked it over with my teachers, and tried to understand if ever that was possible. But it didn’t stop. It was as if the media saw a horrific event, no matter what the event, and jump on a chance to exploit. What was slowing sinking in quickly became desensitization. How much more could I see, hear, taken in?
Students and teachers were quick to take sides, liberal and conservative. I had no idea what to think. I went to my AP US history teacher to try to get the real story, or at least as many facts as I could and words from somebody who wouldn’t try to sway me one way or another. I tried to be unbiased. In the coming year I would become more politically aware than ever before, debate with friends and classmates, and help to gather care packages for soldiers overseas.
What bit my nerves the most was the empty patriotism. Suddenly everyone was a proud American. Everyone had a flag. We were all united in a matter of a day. But did we know what we were uniting over? Why now and not before? Sure enough the extra flags would go away only to come back out on the anniversary just like every Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day in the past. Is this really nationalism or do you just not know what else to do? If we can all unite in a somber remembrance on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, why can’t we find political unity the rest of the time? Maybe our efforts are not spread far enough, or maybe we don’t try hard enough.
I was told recently that in Germany it scares the citizens if you display the flag too often, too proudly. The last time nationalism was displayed with such gusto over there was during the Nazi regime.
My British friend calls the United States the Land of Flags. We fly them every where all the time, and more frequently on these special occasions. What does it mean anymore when it is always there? Is it even special anymore? Does anyone ever feel immense pride anymore when they see the Stars and Stripes flying? It’s so ordinary nowadays.
I in no way mean that September 11th was not tragic, something to remember. Those who died should be remembered and those who served should be honored. And we should be grateful that we have not officially entered WWIII and all of our men have not been sent off to war. We just have a little more thinking to do.