This past weekend was this tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks here in the United States. Americans appropriately commemorated it with prayer, parades, and memorial services throughout the country.
On Facebook, many people created status posts that spoke of “always remembering,” and “never forgetting” September 11th.
Although I understand the point, I have to admit I find it somewhat ludicrous. Very few of us are in danger of forgetting the horrific events that reshaped our world ten years ago. We don’t need a Facebook status to remind us of where we were that Tuesday Autumn morning, or of the precious lives that were lost, or of the fear we felt as the realization set in; that even here in United States, no one is ever really safe.
I found myself thinking of two things.
The first is the expression “forgive and forget.”
I have to say this is probably a very harmful expression in our culture. It suggests, erroneously, that forgiveness equals forgetting – that, if we have the powerful experience of forgiveness, we also, de facto, are guilty of forgetting something that we should never forget.
The second is from my childhood in the United Methodist Church. I remember the altar table in the sanctuary had words carved in it that read “In remembrance of me.”
I remember the pastor (my Dad) handing me the small cup of grape juice and cube of bread during monthly Communion and quoting Jesus’ words from the Bible, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
He didn’t suggest that, in addition to remembering Jesus, we should be angry at the people who betrayed, denied and executed him.
In fact, many of my father’s sermons focused on the events that happened the next day, after the Last Supper.
Jesus, while suffering agony on the cross, prayed for forgiveness for his persecutors.
To me, this stands in stark contrast with the many self-proclaimed Christians who cry for blood in punishment and retaliation for the heinous attacks of September 11th.
Most importantly, it proves that we can have both remembrance and forgiveness – at the same time.
Forgiveness is a powerful thing.
It is the only way to heal when we have been wronged, either personally, or collectively. So often, we hold grudges against individuals who have harmed us. Usually, we are hurt by hanging on to our own anger. This allows our antagonists to hurt us not once, but twice. The first is at their hand, the second is at our own.
As this tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks passes, I fear our national forgiveness process has not even begun.
As we remember the fallen and the courageous, let us also remember a few other things from our national experience.
Let’s remember the high-end Manhattan shoe dealers, who stood on the street giving away brand new sneakers to help people make the long walk home when no other transportation was available.
Let’s remember our sense of national unity.
Let’s remember the outpouring of good will from nations around the world.
Let’s remember, too, our gratitude, that, in this most terrible tragedy, the unfortunate death of 3,000 people is a small number indeed, when compared to the 800,000 lost in the Rwandan genocide, for instance. Even one violent death is one too many – but we still need to remember that we, as Americans, enjoy much greater security than many other countries around the world.
Let’s remember the healing power of forgiveness.
So instead of “forgive and forget,” let’s say “remembrance and forgiveness.”
This paradigm that is so clearly illustrated in the story of Jesus’ final days is also clearly portrayed in the Major Arcana of the Tarot.
Card 10, The Wheel of Fortune, reminds us that karma is always served as the wheel turns, without our effort.
Card 11, Justice, reminds us that Justice is exacted at the hands of a Higher Power, not our own.
Card 20, Judgment, sends us an angel to bring closure, and new beginnings.
As this sad anniversary passes, may there be healing and new beginnings for us all.