Mourning without end

We’ve lost ourselves in an indulgent dreamland, in which an entire decade has been compressed into the hours immediately following the initial attacks against the United States. We’ve fixated on the 2,997 people who lost their lives, but forget that they were merely the first casualties.

The display in Dunn Meadow on Sunday in which a tiny American flag was planted for each of the 2,997 victims immediately raised a pair of silent questions: where are the flags for those who have died in the unnecessary wars that followed 9/11, and exactly how many flags would that require? 

If the memory of 2,997 lost lives brings tears to your eyes, the true cost of 9/11 should leave you a sobbing wreck.

As of August 2010, at least 919,967 people had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This was the lowest possible estimate and more have died since then. I have made no distinction between civilian dead and American military dead because I see no distinction; every life is sacred. Yet we have casually tossed away nearly a million lives.

Where are their flags? Where are their prayers, memorials and eulogies? We cannot console ourselves that we have no responsibility to mourn them because they did not die on our soil.

It was our outrage and thirst for vengeance that began the War on Terror, and our tax dollars funded those wars. It was our industry that churned out the bullets and shrapnel that shredded the bodies of the innocent.

Of course, we have so far only discussed the twin wars begun by President Bush. It is President Obama’s own sin to intensify the drone war in the Middle East, expanding it beyond Pakistan to Yemen.

Since 2004, the drone war has killed more than 2,500 people — mostly civilians — in Pakistan alone.  I know these numbers can be difficult to comprehend. Perhaps it is a mercy that we can’t properly envision the number. But please compare them.
Nearly as many have died in drone strikes as died on 9/11. Nearly a million have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I am not trying to belittle the lives lost on 9/11 or to mock those who mourned on Sunday. I am saying that we have not mourned enough.

We must not hide behind nationalism or cultural differences. If you are a Christian, remember Galatians 3:28, which tells us that we are “all one.” If you are a Muslim, remember that the 49th chapter of the Quran tells us that mankind was divided into nations so that we could “know and honor each other.” If you are Jewish, remember Leviticus 19:18, which tells us to “have love for your neighbor as for yourself.” If you are an atheist, remember that every life is worth defending, because this life is all
we have.

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is the time to affirm all life as one and all death as tragic. I fear we are wasting this opportunity.


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