Today is an anniversary. A day we have been entreated for fourteen years now to never forget. An insistent cry that was already there, ready-made from previous assaults on American Exceptionalism. A vehemence that has had little to do with remembering the loss of life and everything to do with justifying aggression.
This phenomena is only the most shrill and easily isolated example of the continuous call for us to maintain a fevered pitch of fear, anxiety, and willingness to sacrifice all our sense to feed an insatiable appetite for compounding misery throughout the world. All so that we don’t have to confront the deep grief we feel as we push everything that we care about over a cliff.
What I’d like to say today, and everyday, is forget. Forget the quick jump into rage. Forget the reflexive reaction to use our pain – no matter how abstracted that might be – as justification for inflicting retribution. Forget to plow an ever-deeper furrow of paralyzing anxiety that keeps us forever trapped in an escalating cycle of destruction.
Holding anything in mind under some compulsion to “never forget” is most likely the most damaging advice we could give or accept. That way lies psychosis. This is the fatal flaw within insanity.
Remember that, if you must remember something today. Remember that the loudest voices – internal or external – are the most dangerous. The most likely to lead us into further harm. They drown out any possibility of our hearing the quiet voices that just might bring us to something else: to a sense of presence, to attend to what is hidden by the rush to justify, to discover compassion.
The first and deepest violence buried in this demand we never forget is the violence it does to us if we heed it. It destroys our integrity before it destroys another’s life. It imprisons us in a trap of suffering before it spreads misery onto others. If there is a Hell, this is what it is like: to never forget an injury; never forgive; never attend to what we all share in common. Such an attitude condemns us to never find peace; never find solace; never to find what is at the bottom of our grief before rushing off to ensure that grief is broadcast throughout the world in our name.