For the first time in the 19 years, I feel more frustrated than encouraged by the collective American remembrance of the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. The hollow lip service we pay to honoring our fellow Americans and to grieving their loss is hitting me especially hard this year, as I wrestle with the disingenuous affectation of it.
The American response to COVID-19 cruelly highlights the fact that many of us are motivated by and enraged by the needless loss of American life only as long as we are not ourselves called to sacrifice in any real way, no matter how slight that sacrifice may be.
It is not that it has escaped me until now that the American outrage and patriotism expressed in a collective national voice after the 9/11 attacks was easily generated for many because it cost them nothing to be vocal. It’s not that I haven’t realized that there was comparatively little action in proportion to the words. At least, I thought, we were united in theory, in ideology, in cause. I knew that sympathetic tears and emphatic calls to “never forget” were not concrete efforts to aid, but I believed there was still a measure of value in simply expressing support.
The American response to efforts to battle COVID-19, however, has demonstrated to me that many of us are only willing to be unified and patriotic when it comes without personal inconvenience or sacrifice. In the aftermath of 9/11, it was easy to be angry at foreign aggressors from a distance, to root for someone else to take action, to support their sacrifice from afar. When much lesser sacrifices were asked of each of us to save American lives during COVID-19, however, we balked and bucked, argued, resisted, and refused to cooperate.
Whether we prefer to admit it or not, there is a single, simple reason that so many of us are willing to annually…