Today, we will be asked to never forget.
We will be asked to relive that day, with loops of explosions, tumbling towers, rubble and rescue workers.
We will be reminded never to forget.
We will be reminded that this is our duty as Americans.
There is a threat implied in refusing to forget. It is a threat against others, a reminder that our collective memory is as deep as our desire for vengeance. We refuse to forget with war, drones, and torture. We refuse to forget with the erosion of civil liberties. We refuse to forget by reminding the entire world that retaliation — not freedom — is our nation’s most treasured value.
Never forgetting is also a threat against ourselves, for it reminds us that no matter what happens we will never be allowed to forget.
We will be forced to relive it by our culture. We will be forced again to be mourners of the macabre. We will be forced watch it, again and again and again.
Until we like it.
Until we remember that we shouldn’t forget.
We will be asked never to forget: to take the blade’s edge to our bodies until we feel the pain fresh again. Because, unlike that day 12 years ago, the pain of never forgetting is one we control. One we choose. It is a pain that gives us release from anxiety and disorientation. It is a pain we need.
Never forgetting, as a country, turns us into a nation of cutters.
But not today. And not for me.
Today, I choose instead to forget.
It has been 12 years. I have gotten married, had children, been ordained. I have moved. I have been wounded in more ways than I can count in those intervening years. And I’m sure I have done some wounding, too.
So, I will not live today in the past.
For some, today brings the grief and pain of dead loved ones. It will be a genuine day of remembrance and not forgetting for many of them. I refuse to grieve for a day while my life has remained largely unchanged. It cheapens the grief of those who cannot forget because their mother, son, father, spouse, or sister died that day.
I refuse to grieve for something I saw on television but never touched personally.
And as a nation, we should refuse, too.
One day should not define us. So move on and claim this tragic day for the normal and the mundane: For grocery shopping, floor mopping, taking out the trash, and changing the oil.
Because each day has enough trouble of its own, and I don’t need to borrow any more trouble from the past.
For more than a decade, we have understood ourselves as a nation under attack, as a wounded nation who needs to protect itself. In doing so, we have attacked, unjustly, and more viciously than we were attacked; and, we have killed exponentially more innocents with greater indifference than our attackers ever did.
At some point, we ceased to be the wounded, the attacked.
We became the aggressors.
And we still are.
May we never forget that.