This is the season for vengeance, sayeth the “patriots”. Over and over again Americans are assault with some form of prescription intended to stir our military loins in recollection of a the destruction of the Trade Towers. Most recently, I saw a primary school teacher accoutred in hand printed US Flag Tees with her students. I have been thinking about that photo for almost a week now and am still not sure what the lesson was, nor am I sure that I want to know. Perhaps, in all the confusion, I am sure about one thing, that dressing kids up to wave the flag in this season is one of the most ironic images that I think I will ever live to see. How can one look at that image and not call to mind the images of children, murdered under the same flag.
Look on those kids (even the one picking his nose.) Not one of those cute children understand what took place on 9/11/73. Not one sees the stark irony in howling about the injustice of one 9/11 while ignoring the other. Of my favorite authors, perhaps Vonnegut captures the irony of this season best. Like Vonnegut we seem to be masters of temporal distortion and disorientation, accomplished at auto-hypnosis and selective amnesia. As I sneak a peak in to the future, this is what I see for future Septembers, “9/11” grief celebrations that extol military virtue not unlike Russian Mayday celebrations.
This year, the 40th anniversary of the American sponsored pusch that deposed the democratically elected President of Chile and ended with the installation of August Pinochet, takes place during ‘aseret yumei tschuvah”, the Jewish ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) with Yom Kippur taking place on shabbat. Amazingly enough, while the local School district still won’t allow activities on Sunday, it made a special arrangement to move high school football games to Thursday and Friday this week, indocating that it was hopeful that the Friday night game would be over by 8:00 pm (when Shabbat and Yom Kippur start.)
The timing of the holidays this year poses much the same questions as the Holocaust did for our grandparents. Are there any innocents, and can you forgive without being forgiving; can you expect atonement from others without owning your own misconduct? What responsibility, if any, does the victim have in his own demise? In a perfect world perhaps the taunt, “You asked for it,” would lose all meaning, but in the world in which I live, a world peopled by those with long memories, simmering resentment and deep anger, owning up to one’s responsibility seems unappetizing to people who wear the red, white and blue.
There are, I suppose, quite a few ways to look at “atonement’, but I tend to see it as requiring a willingness to forgive, as well as a effort seeking forgiveness. It is a process of reconciliation that is not addressed by mailing greeting cards.
While Americans cry that they will never forget the trespasses of others, they might try remembering their own trespasses.