Archive for September, 2011

This is morning hair. Spectacular, isn't it?

Had to start off with a goofy pic today, because this is going to be a pretty heavy blog post.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11th, 2001. And instead of becoming stronger as a nation, pulling together and choosing to not allow terrorists to divide us with hatred and fear, we are spending our time flogging ourselves and reliving the memory over and over again, directing vitriol at people who don’t deserve it, and refusing to let the good people who died that day really die.

Anyone who was alive and more than a few years old on that date probably remembers where they were and what they thought. I do. I’m certain that I will for a long time. But I’m not going to tell you about it, because it’s not important. I am angry about this date now, because people refuse to let us go forward, instead insisting we stay mired in the past. We are stuck like a pig in a bog, and instead of struggling to get out, we’re wallowing further down into it. And that makes me angry.

Now, let me say this. Grief is not a bad thing, when something bad happens. Grief is a natural coping mechanism that allows us to deal with overwhelming events, to process them and continue on with our lives. However, where grief becomes a bad thing is when you give yourself over to it so completely that it’s impossible to break free. When you won’t allow yourself to continue living your life, because the grief is more important. When the grief becomes guilt, and you become trapped in the endless cycle of the two, not allowing yourself to move on from the event that you’re grieving.

I know something about the cycle of guilt. Not to say that I’m any kind of expert, far from it. But I have spent a long time learning how to cope with overwhelming guilt over things that happens long, long ago. My example happened when I was in elementary school, around 7 or 8 years old. We had a cage full of mice that we were allowed to play with, under supervision. I was very good with animals, even back then, so I was allowed to take one of the mice out to play with, for a few minutes, without much supervision. I let it run around inside the circle of my arms, petted it, and otherwise enjoyed its little furry self. Then I discovered that I had a rubber band in my pocket, and I decided to see if I could get the mouse to jump through it. When this failed, I decided to hold the rubber band in the air, perhaps an inch from the ground, and suspend the mouse with it. The poor little mouse struggled, but I didn’t think it was really being hurt, so I wouldn’t relent until it squeaked at me. Then I put the rubber band away, and went to a teacher to return the mouse to its cage. An hour or so later, one of the teachers noticed the mouse I’d been playing with was acting strangely. It was lethargic, could hardly move, had trouble opening its eyes. I was questioned, but I felt afraid of punishment and thus lied about nothing happening. The mouse died not long after, I can only assume from internal injuries, and I knew it had to be my fault. That mouse lived for perhaps a year and a half, but I could not let it die. I spent ten years remembering my actions, and feeling absolutely awful for them. I had killed a defenseless little creature, and not even by accident, just by doing something I thought was play that had injured it so badly that it died. There would be months when I wouldn’t think about it, and then one day it would just surge into my mind, making me weep in helpless guilt and grief for what I had done. It wasn’t until I was almost 17 years old that I finally forgave myself for what I’d done. I still remember, vividly, but I do not grieve or feel guilt anymore. I treat all animals with a little more care, and I remember that what might be play to me could be painful to them, and I value the lesson that mouse taught me. But I don’t grieve anymore.

Keeping grief and guilt alive for so long is not healthy. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized it was anxiety that caused me to replay that and lesser memories over and over again, feeling awful guilt over my actions (sometimes for situations as innocuous as asking for a ride to the grocery store from a friend). It gave me pain, and while I eventually learned to cope with my feelings and later break the cycle of guilt, I remember what it was like.

It isn’t healthy for us, as a nation, to grieve over this event. We are dishonoring the memories of those who died ten years ago, by spending our time weeping and reliving the horror, instead of honoring their bravery, and celebrating our combined strength as a nation. We bar progress and keep ourselves from moving forward, from moving on. We create a grave marker over the site itself, instead of rebuilding and showing that one loss is not enough to break us.

We have to move on. We have to let the dead lie in peace, and instead of flogging ourselves repeatedly for an event that was not our fault and not in our control, we have to show the world that we are not that weak. It makes me angry, to see this day made into a living corpse of our bad feelings, when it could be a celebration of life, of honor, of bravery and our standing together as a nation.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


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