The media's abuzz with talk of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which feels like a party I'm obliged to attend even though I really don't want to go.
Part of my revulsion stems from the fact that celebrating the the birthday of such a terrible event feels profoundly...un-American. Can you think of any other tragedy that we actually celebrate? Again and again, we lionize the evil men who committed this heinous act. I've heard interviews with Mohammad Atta's former roommates on one network, and other journalists are talking about what a coup it is for Obama we finally killed Osama bin Laden, one man that it took nearly a decade to find, one man who started a cycle of violence that goes far beyond himself.
We talk again and again of those who lost their lives on that date, denying families the chance to grieve privately, preventing the nation from moving on from this tragedy.
We focus over and over again on the act itself, and we forget about people, real living people. The first responders, who've finally been given health coverage, still don't have coverage for cancer treatments. I'm thinking about them.
All the people who've lost their lives subsequently, in the name of 9/11, I'm thinking about them.
So why are we celebrating the point when so much ugliness began?
What new lessons does anyone believe we can learn today that we haven't learned in the decade since?
In our discourse, 9/11 has become a destructive entity, a black-hole that denies any meaningful analysis outside of its impact in numbers. Mentioning it precludes any discussion of what led to the attack, and invoking it makes any criticism of ensuing national security policy seem unpatriotic or even treasonous.
We can only repeat the facts: the number of deaths, the names of the ringleaders, even the names of the dead. We've heard these info-bytes so many times now that they've lost all meaning.
We experienced 9/11 and we recovered. Why isn't that the story? We didn't succumb completely to fear, we didn't completely surrender the ideals of our nation, though we have veered dangerously close. Why isn't that the story? The message should be of resilience, not of loss.
I am hopeful that the tenth anniversary puts a period on this era where politicians and pundits used 9/11 to exploit America's greatest moment of weakness. They continue to deny that America is a strong nation, that in the most basic definition of safety, America is safe.
I'm running this post a day early so that all those who actually lost beloved friends or family on that day can mourn in peace. But America should not let herself be defined by one tragic event. When we wake up on 9/12, I hope we all work together to create a new narrative.
I hope that in the next decade we can all focus on rebuilding our economy and enabling those people and institutions that made the U.S. strong - our thinkers, our innovators, our scientists, our artists, our entrepreneurs, our workers, our families, our social workers, our teachers.
In the next decade, I hope we can recognize each and every person as an individual, not as cookie-cutter members of some "group".
I hope that, somehow or the other, we can return to governance based on compassion and human rights instead of governance based on politics.
More than anything, I hope we don't need to talk about 9/11 anymore, that we loosen its vise-like grip from our national consciousness.
The glory years of the United States are not in its past. I believe this. And I believe we can work together for a better future.