At Sunday’s observance of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New City, attendance will be limited. Citing concerns about space, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has chosen which groups shall and shall not be represented. And in the “not welcome” category are members of the clergy and first responders.
Bloomberg has been roundly criticized for this move, and I have to confess I was among them at first. But now that I have had a bit more time to reflect on it, I believe Mayor Bloomberg is making the right move.
The clergy wants to attend, as they often take leading roles when we are mourning and need comfort. But the 9/11 hijackers were driven by their religious devotions. It was their extreme, fanatical devotion to how they perceived to be the Will of Allah that led them to slaughter almost 3,000 people. In that light, I think Big Religion has already done enough for us on 9/11. Let them stay away.
As for the First Responders, they were there on 9/11 — if not the specific ones who would be attending, then their brothers and sisters. And a lot of them died. But that’s their job. Maybe if some of them had done their job a bit better, some of those who died on that day might have lived. Their presence at the memorial would be reminder of that, so we should exclude them, too.
But who should be there? Who is entitled to that place of honor?
Well, first up, obviously the politicians. They are elected to represent all of us, so it’s only appropriate that they turn out in numbers to stand in our place.
Then we need some kind of national grief counselor to address us to remind us that we are all victims, that we all need time and help in healing and finding closure on this terrible, terrible assault. That day left us with an open wound on our national psyche, much like how Ground Zero is still, in many ways, an open wound reminding us of that grievous injury.
Next, we need someone to put the whole event in context. We need some learned academic or other thoughtful type to remind us that in a lot of ways, we caused the attacks. It was our arrogance that led us to intervene in the Middle East (along with a lot of other places) and provoke the people who carried out those attacks, and in a lot of ways we had it coming. If Reverend Jeremiah Wright wasn’t a man of the cloth, he’d be ideal. Perhaps Ward Churchill or William Ayers could fill in. But then again, Wright isn’t a clergyman in the traditional sense, so he still might suffice. Yes, we were victims, but the people who attacked us were victims of ours — and they were victims first.
So stand strong, Mayor Bloomberg. This Sunday, we must mourn and remember. But most importantly, the right messages must be sent. And your overseeing of the services in New York City shows that you know exactly what those messages should be.
Update: Here’s a good source, with links to more sources. I added this about an hour ago, but our delightful, wonderful, awesome new platform chose to ignore the update. I forgot that I have to hit the “update” button at least twice, if not more, to persuade it that I really, really do want to change the article. And then I should check the public page to make sure it took.