9/11 Memorial Fatigue

Our town is embroiled in a debate about what to do with a piece of metal from one of the World Trade Center Towers. The cross-shaped beam is further decorated with a cross cut into the piece of metal.

Even though my religious background and affiliation is Christian, I am astonished, and even offended, that our mayor would consider using a Christian symbol to memorialize 9/11 victims. How do we know whether some of these victims were not Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, animists or pagans, to name but a few options? Atheists die, too, and possibly don’t desire posthumous conversion, so covering the cross in any and all religious symbols, even if the Darwin fish is added, still doesn’t hit home for me.

Honestly, I have 9/11 fatigue. Our nation has 9/11 fatigue. We are tired of the Iraq War and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. We have honored 9/11 victims again and again, and in a fitting memorial in the place where they died. Some were self-sacrificing heroes, indeed, and others had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, just as are victims of train wrecks. We have had national mourning and very private, family services and mourning. We did not turn the other cheek–through no fault of the innocent victims. But our government used their tragic deaths as an excuse to start war even when no WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) were found in Iraq. We surely need to reflect on what continuing to turn the 9/11 attacks into an unending Holy War–exactly what the attackers would have wished for?–and what constructive actions we might take.

Is it time to remember other victims and perhaps provide a tableaux with the possible power to prevent future accidents of a different nature? If we must decorate our town square with twisted metal to be patriotic, a very charged word that seems to involve loving ourselves and hating others, surely not the Christianity or humanity we strive for, why not the charred automobile wreckage in which someone died because they or someone else was driving recklessly, or inattentively, or under the influence of alcohol?

There is hunger in the country, and big agriculture-chemical companies want to keep it that way. Monsanto keeps forcing its GMO (genetically modified food) onto people and farmers. Supposedly crop yields will be higher, but pesticide and herbicide application rates grow right along with crop yields, and cost farmers lots of money. Small farmers in the United States continue to go out of business at rapid rates. The rates are even higher for African-American farmers, so this is a matter of social justice as well as health. The two are often tied together.

Small farmers in India have been committing suicide for over a decade now, suicide by ingesting the very pesticides they have been sold because monoculture agriculture fails them, their crops fail, and they are unable to repay the ag-chem giants. Crop yields, even with high–need I say toxic?–rates of pesticide application eventually peak, and then taper off, or dry up, when the effects of other matters such as drought or flood, or insect or weed resistance to pesticides or herbicides occur. Monsanto is not the only evil giant, but it is the one that made Agent Orange and DDT, so possibly my least favorite. Monsanto is currently trying to get pro-Monsanto legislation pushed through, to put even more family farmers out of business. (If you don’t like this idea, check out the Sierra Club site, which is gathering signatures for a vote as early as this coming Monday.)

So I suggest a tribute and monument to wholesome food, which can only be grown on healthy, nutrient-rich soil, with unpolluted water, and in clean air. Put up a monument to organic food. Less use of chemicals will decrease rates of cancer and many neurological illnesses. In New Jersey, we might want a monument to corn, strawberries and tomatoes. In California, where the strawberries taste like water, and tend to have an unpleasant crunchy texture, what about a monument to lettuce and grapes, held up by the farm workers who tend and harvest them? Farm workers are also healthier without being exposed to pesticides. We can’t all afford to buy organic, but we can all voice an opinion in matters of public health.

There are many, many heroic people and many, many social ills that plague this country. 9/11 was a great and horrific tragedy. But a monomaniacal focus on that tragedy, to the exclusion of the daily tragedies of gun and auto deaths and hunger, does a disservice to the living, who must also be honored, and whom we are in a position to protect.

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