By Eric Thomas
Every year, on September 11th, my Facebook wall turns into a shrine. If you log onto Twitter or Facebook on that day you’ll find a laundry list of tributes and testimonials. News sites pause to reflect the largest terrorist attack on American soil. Silences are honored all over the country, flags fly, somber speeches are made to honor the victims. There is a reverence when this is observed, as there should be. It’s often carried out with chin to chest under a creamy banner wearing somber spaced type and murmuring the words: “Never Forget.”
A country’s moment of pure reflection. Younger generations tell stories of teachers flipping on televisions that were tuned to the carnage. I was at work or I was in my car or my mother father sister brother friend foe coworker called me and told me. The numbers are read, the tally taken. Normally ebullient voices find a lower register. People recollect the feeling of country-wide community and mourn its evanescence. All of this under the banner of “Never Forget.”
Less than twenty-four hours later, on the 11th anniversary (this year), the United States embassy in Benghazi was attacked. Details remain murky. Some emerging evidence suggests a coordinated attack.
Within hours, splashed on thousands of Facebook walls, was how America feels. I doubt I am the only one who noticed the stomach turning reaction of friends and family. The rush to judgment, xenophobia and unabashed nativism slapped like an open hand from the HTML code. Full throated blood lust held a hand in the air and screamed for justice. Calls for attacks on “them” ran down from the sky.
“There must be a response,” and “We need to kill them,” weren’t so much said as tossed without even a second thought. Reptilian demands for scalps came easy for people whom just hours ago said “Never Forget.”
Benghazi is pro-American. The city of was marked for genocide by their former leader, and the case that was made for Libya’s liberation was made largely because of Benghazi. In the hours following the attack, many citizens in Benghazi held a pro-American demonstration. It was later deemed a “We’re sorry” demonstration by a few media members. You might have missed it. You were busy posting that they should all be killed, four spots under the post that said “Never Forget.”
You can’t stop the mob. If a group of people decide that their cup of upset has run over to the point where they don’t care about life or limb they can do a lot of damage. If there are enough people upset, all the guns, bullets and bombs in the world won’t help. The anger of a mob cannot be reasoned with, stopped or prevented. If someone is mad enough and mean enough, there is little this world can do to intervene. These things just happen sometimes. If an organization is orchestrating this, there will be a surgical strike on those responsible and the thing will come to an end. If the State department can correctly calm the remaining population and rub salve over some apparently open wounds, this shall pass.
But instead of diplomacy, there are many who want blood. To them, diplomacy is appeasement. To them, there should not be a surgical strike but a broadsword swung. Death should rain on not only those responsible but their neighbors. If someone has the distinction of existing next to someone responsible, they deserve the same fate as those who actively participated and planned. Blood should run in the streets so that this American community can correctly communicate their outrage at “them.” Those people, them, need to pay with their lives. All of them. This demand is made with a closed fist slapping into an open hand, and typed in English five or six posts south of the words “Never Forget.”
In the eleven years since 2001 the United States has brought nothing but death and destruction to the Muslim world. Did the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do anything to avenge those cut down by 9/11? For nine years, death rained from the sky onto innocent people who never had anything to do with any attack on the USA, their only commonality being their acknowledged religious affiliation. Their understanding of that religion might be totally different, but this country saw no separation. Those deaths only led to more death and this country still stands on the edge of bankruptcy as a result. Yet there they were, “bomb them all” cries seven posts away from “Never Forget.”
When I see “Never Forget,” it means never forget the lessons. Never forget the decisions that were made immediately after. Never forget the victims, and the lessons taught to us. It seems like when most people say “Never Forget,” they seem to mean anger. They hold onto a grudge. They seem to believe that acceptance is some form of weakness, rather than a final step in a process of healing that needs to happen. They look back at the rage they felt as a drug, a high from the righteous indignation that is allowed to those who have been freshly attacked. They hold onto that anger as a birthright.
This country hasn’t forgotten. We ignored.