Here’s a multiple choice question:
Has the world been solemnly marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in America because:
(a) We are all united in solemn remembrance of those who died in a devastating terrorist outrage?
(b) It’s important to show terrorists that it’s business as usual even if, by raking up the past, we’re providing them them free of charge with a ‘greatest hits’ package of publicity to send shivers up and down the spine?
(c) Media archives all over the world are stuffed with arresting images of planes ploughing into skyscrapers which can be dusted down at short notice, pundits can pontificate until the cows come home about what it all means, and there are lots of TV channels and columns of newsprint to be filled?
The answer, if you ask me, is definitely the last one, because the observance of the anniversary of the Twin Towers attacks looks set to become just as much of a fixture in our calendar of knee-jerk grief as Remembrance Day.
Now don’t get me wrong – remembrance is important. After all, those who do remember the past are condemned to repeat it, as George Santayana would pleased to tell you if he was still around.
My remembrance of the fallen is expressed every time I visit a new town or village. I always make time to read the names on the war memorial, counting the number of times each surname appears, thinking about the lives lost and giving thanks that I’ve never come close to being asked, or expected, to make the same sort of sacrifice.
But I’m irritated more and more each year by the media types and politicians who sprout a poppy weeks ahead of the proper day for fear of anyone thinking that they might not be sensitive and caring.
At the weekend world leaders have been standing silently to mark the 10th anniversary of something very bad. Sorry, I don’t want my world leaders to be devoting time to this sort of posturing, I want them to be looking forward and trying to make a world where this sort of thing doesn’t happen in the first place.
And there are all sorts of other things that are just as worthy of remembrance.
Even September 11 offers notable dates for consideration.
Intemperate folk of Irish extraction won’t need a reminder of Cromwell’s 1649 massacre in Drogheda – but what about the mysterious 1973 death of Chilean president Salvador Allende, overthrown by a military coup which set the scene for years of brutal human rights violations and state murders?
While we’re at it, the first Allied forces entered Germany on September 11 back in 1944. The Nazis were on the back foot and victory was in sight – not worth marking in the diary at all?
If it’s all the same to you, I’ll continue to reflect on the Twin Towers every time I’m standing in an airport queue with my shoes in one hand and a plastic bag of toiletries in the other.
It’s not a very solemn or communal way of remembering, I’ll grant you, but it works for me.