I hate it when I have a good idea too late.
Two days ago was the 10th of September, the 1-year anniversary from my departure from Illinois. Now, I'm not big into holidays and sentimentality is rather unbecoming of me, but I still felt this was a personal day for me, so I was compelled to do something special to commemorate it. Being the lameass that I am, I forewent your typical big-meal, heavy-drinking, no-work type of holiday and went the other way with it. I had a day of hard work for myself, including waking up promptly at 5am (no snooze) writing an essay, writing in my journal, writing a letter, completing all teaching jobs that I typically save until the last minute, studying Chinese, Korean and English, and working out. In fact, the only thing I didn't accomplish on the 10th was writing in my blog. On the list of things that I care about, though, the blog is nowhere to be found, so whatever.
Yesterday was the 11th of Septempber, and I don't think I need to remind anyone of what this is the anniversary.
Like I said, I'm not big on holidays -- I feel they are a poor excuse to do something on one day that you should have been doing every day -- but I can't help but feel the twinge of regret that such a personal day for me should fall so closely to such an inauspicious one for the country.
The face that it's an inauspiscious day is peculiar isn't it? To the best of my knowledge, there is no day in secular American culture that is regarded as "bad". It can be said that holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran's Day are somber and respectful, but not necessarily sad. D-Day is a bloody one, but again, more somber than sad. Plus, we won; there's no reason to be sad. The day that Pearl Harbor was bombed is a close contender, but it's disqualified for two reasons. First, it lacks a name. If it does have a name, I am completely ignorant of it and I'm sure I'm not in the minority on that issue. (Furthermore, what could you call it? Pearl Harbor Day? Infamy Day?) Second -- and I again suspect that I'm in the majority on this one -- the date is not well-known. (Dec 4th is my honest guess. I'll wiki this later.)
But 9/11 is fairly stuck with us. Not only are the results of said day still reverberating through the citizenry of the US over 7 years later, but it's prompted wars in three countries. Plus, the name alone is a seemingly permenent fixture in our collective lexicon.
There's the setup; now here's the punchline. If we being to see this day as a "holiday", what's the best way to observe it?
I'm sure the quickest answer you'll receive is that of yellow ribbons, lapel flags, memorial services, the phrase "Suck it, bin Laden!" and the word "'Merica". In regards to the flags and memorial services, I tend to follow the Lincoln school of thought: "We can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract." And as for the chants of "USA! USA!" and crudely photoshopped drawings of Uncle Sam extending the middle finger, presumably directed at whatever brown-skinned individual is walking by at the time, well, they're embarrassing to say the least.
We like to discuss many things about 9/11 and the War on Terror (is that supposed to be capitalized? That doesn't look right to me.) One thing I feel that we don't ask often enough is, "Are we, in any small way, responsible for what happened?" It's a question I feel that any thinking, mature society should ask, as often as possible and under a variety of circumstances. I can't say that the answer is "Yes" in this particular case, but I do see the benefits in taking hard, objective look at our place in the world.
So how do I propose we observe 9/11? Well, just like I took my personal holiday and turned into an opportunity to better myself, our country should forego the flags and 'Mericas and think about the world.
The purpose of this holiday will be to expand our understand of the political and cultural world in which we live. (I'll figure out a way to fit this onto a bumper sticker later.)
The name of our hypothetical observance must -- for better or worse -- remain the same: 9/11. There is no way that name could be changed; it's impossible to try. Planning a way to celebrate this day is also close to impossible (you cannot say to a large group of people "Do this and go have fun" and expect it to work) but here are some ideas.
Being the disgusting, pudgy bastard that I am, I think food should be the focal point here, but with a twist. The food must be international in origin. I don't mean hot dogs that were made in Taiwan (I have $50 to anybody who can prove their existence. They have to be real. I just know it.) but something that can't be called "American food." The more ethnic, the better.
But the holiday isn't just about food is it? We want to promote a sense of understanding and camraderie. So I propose a second twist: This meal cannot be eaten with your family or close friends. This will be a holidy were you're encouraged to avoid your relatives (thank god, right?) and seek out co-workers, acquaintances and maybe even complete strangers, for the purpose of sharing a meal and getting to know one another better. I can picture the local Ethiopian restuarant with all the tables pushed together and strangers congregating, experiencing a different culture and creating a miniture version of the global village we should all strive for.
Compared to that, ribbons and three-letter chants seem decisively lame. This is a holiday I can get behind.
But, like all my good ideas, this one is a day late. See you in '09.