I’m hearing a lot of hullabaloo about the upcoming September 11th anniversary. It has come to my attention that neither the fire or police departments have been invited to the “official” ceremonies. Neither, it seems, have any clergy been included.
I think that one move is dead-on and that the other is dead wrong.
Guess which is which.
Here’s the thing; I kind of understand the effort to keep the focus on the families of the people who lost their lives in 2001. SO much of the focus over the years has been on the firefighters and police and port authority officers who died that I’ve often felt that the families were getting short shrift in the public attention department (though, as I think of it, that diversion of attention may have been a good thing). It seems a good and right thing to give the families of janitors and stock brokers and secretaries, who didn’t have the brotherhood of service to support them, to get a little of the public support and sympathy that has long been given to the more visible firefighters and officers.
Now, that being said, I am not crazy about the idea of actively dis-inviting first responders. I have never been part of a unit or organization like police or firefighters, but I do know that many of them feel a true and deep bond with those with whom they serve. My understanding is that people whose job it is to risk their lives to save others’ (and, ironically, for soldiers, whose job it is to take the lives of others) develop a kind of intimate brotherhood for one another. They truly ARE family, in every sense of the word that matters. To exclude them from the official remembrance seems, at least to me, a deeply hurtful, insulting, and ungrateful gesture.
I do think, however, that the decision to keep the ceremony free from clergy was exactly the right decision. I find it interesting to watch the people and organizations who are losing their collective shit over the fact that no one is going to be there to officially represent Jesus. It wasn’t only Christians who died that day; that building was populated with people of a number of faiths – and of no faith at all – and the impulse to slather everything with a hearty helping of Christianity is one that we would do well to discourage in all our public exercises. If we’re going to invite a pastor or a priest to something like this, shouldn’t we also invite a rabbi and a humanist and, God forbid, an imam? Can you IMAGINE the shit storm THAT invitation would spark? “We can’t have a MUSLIM on the stage at a 9/11 remembrance!!” Leaving religion – all religion – out of the public exercise was both a thoughtful and politically astute thing to do.
On balance, I think that the people who are planning all of this got one completely right and one tragically, shamefully wrong.