I am not one who, under ideal normal circumstances, comments upon the behavior of those around me. It is truly none of my business how or why others do as they do, barring that they hurt none but themselves while going about their activities. And yet these are neither ideal nor normal of times, and so I feel the need to speak.
Something unspeakably terrible has befallen a great resilient nation, and shared tragedy will often unify a people, and so is the current case. The days after that carefully calculated theatrical act, that great smoking nauseating blatant dare, I too am united with my fellow Americans in grief and anger, of sheer disbelief and sadness. If ever there were an act to make me want to grasp arms with my neighbors, to consider myself and this nation one, this would so obviously be it. A time of cohesion, and yet there are some who would sow disunity, to milk this event for their own personal gain, to push their own sick ideology. Innocent blood is not something to use as a marketing tool. I speak of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and their remarks a few scant days after the collapse of the World Trade Center, which essentially placed the blame of this upon what they consider partially responsible. The proliferation of liberal civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuality and abortions rights supporters, in their tainted vision, left the United States without god’s protection, it seems. A stab more barbed, dripping with cunning malice I’ve never before seen. Such callus disregard of reality, of sheer villainy to even attempt to lay that day upon the feet of such innocents groups brought the bile to the back of my throat. This would simmer in my mind, these grotesque remarks, until just now. A form of venting, this is; A wish to share with you the events of a single hour, of one godless heathen, of one moment of sorrow and hope, of realization and humility.
At eleven forty-five A.M., Friday the 14th, as I worked a call came over the intercom. The manager in charge informed us that we would soon close for a single hour, from noon to one, as dictated by the corporate office, and we were all to gather at our respective places of worship to pray and to remember. I had no problem with this in the slightest. It was a touching thing, as people obviously needed to grieve and come to some sort of grips with those terrible events, and this seemed a very fitting way. And for fifteen minutes I tried to continue to work, and yet thoughts spiraled and frolicked about in my mind, connecting and playing with ideas. “Yet were not these events very likely brought about due to a minorities twisted slant on religion?” asked myself to I. My co-worker’s inactive god, the one and the same in which these acts were committed under, the one they were all so soon to pray to and worship, this god had done nothing to deserve such praise. Heroics upon noble deeds atop sacrifice atop and within smoking ruins were committed by so many individuals, and this at the cost of their lives, this by individuals. Was that not a better thing to celebrate? These overt selfless acts? And then an elderly lady, at five ’till one stopped and asked me, breaking my chain of thought, would I like to come to church with her? Under normal circumstances I would not step within a church for any reason. Just then the idea revolted me to my very core. I have long viewed religion as a vise, as a means of loss of self in order to attain some semblance of peace. Self-destruction is purely an individual’s choice, thinks I, and he/she is free to commit it and any other that strike their fancy, but only just so long as it harms none but the one carrying through the act. I don’t mind most actions I witness, no matter how silly, and I will not willfully step on toes, if stepping on them results in nothing positive. Flagrant impolite behavior done beneath any banner, however, is quite another, and I will not hesitate to speak or act. And yet this fragile elderly lady, her request for me to accompany her to church, it was meant as an innocent question, with no motives behind it. She simply knew that I too was hurt, and that I could mourn beside her if I wished. But I quietly turned her down. And so no, that was okay, I said. But thanks.
And next the manager in charge came up to me. It is no secret at this place of business that I’ve a complete lack of faith, even though I truly do not push that lack of belief on anyone. I do not hide my view, but I do not flaunt it. I am simply unashamed. And yet this place I live and work is in a very religious part of the bible belt, and any slight wandering from the norm is usually met with wonder and sometimes hostility. My boss, he comes up to me, and he doesn’t quite know what to say. I read in his face, his expression telling far more than his lack of words. It’s painfully clear that he is attempting to phrase what he is going to attempt to say very carefully. He doesn’t mean to be impolite. Sure, must have went his thoughts, this guy is an open atheist, and I can’t relate to that sort, but he’s going to have to leave the building with us in a moment. He’s going to have to go do whatever atheists go do at times like these. This guy, my boss, he’s not a bad sort. And I know he means well, even as he says to me, “I know you don’t believe in god -” and I cut him off. From his face, he’s so obviously trying desperately to find the words. But there’s no need. I tell him simply, “I’ll find someplace to go.” I had no idea where I was going to go then, but wasn’t going to tell him. He nods and wanders off, and for a few moments more I wonder about the irrational behavior of my fellow humans.
And as I walk to the door at noon, I realize where I’m going. I would not mourn for a single hour, this would stay with me the rest of my life. The image of those planes would haunt me forever, those innocent lives snuffed out in such a terrible manner. That defining moment that freedom must come at a horrendous cost, and must be diligently defended. That has been said before, and it was now made glaringly clear. And so went my thoughts, this attack on America, this act was committed against the American way of life. Our freedom, of our occasionally silly culture, our ideals and very nature. And it will be remembered for a great time to come. No, one hour is not enough, one little moment of cleansing sadness. I will never be the same, and that righteous furry and terrible sadness will not leave me any time soon. And so, as I walk to my vehicle under the blazing southern September sun, I say to myself, I will now celebrate my culture and my people. I will do the most American things imaginable, in celebration and defiance, in memory of those who can do so no longer. And so I climb into my pick up. And I drive to Burger King, and I feast upon the most American of foods, a burger and a Coke. Then for the next thirty minutes I will drive about town, wasting gas and blaring rock and roll out of my windows.