Can We Forget “Never Forget” Yet?

Is it just me, or is the lead-up to 9/11 beginning to feel like the lead-up to the holiday season? I don’t mean in that good way that makes you want to gather your friends and family close and drink hot mulled cider while the snow falls outside. No, I mean in that nauseating way retailers, advertisements and TV networks start reminding you of the date earlier and earlier every year.

It’s Christmas, have you started planning your next 9/11 memorial party?

Last year’s 10th Anniversary in particular featured a variety of in-depth interviews by the former president and members of his administration, books to read, documentaries to watch and, of course, products to buy. After 10 years, there are so many products to buy and buy them we must, lest we never forget.

I hate the phrase “Never Forget.” Now inseparable from the events of 9/11, it has been slapped on bumper-stickers, coffee mugs, snow globes, collectible plates, commemorative coins, boxers, thongs, mouse pads, umbrellas, dog collars, dog sweaters, cat toys, tote bags, throw pillows, flags, buttons, picnic wear, cakes, clocks, wrist bands, baby bibs, beer steins and anything else that might have retail value.

This is the manicure of a true patriot.

Like “Yo, quero Taco Bell,” “Where’s the beef?” and “Got milk?” “Never Forget” has, through its overuse, drifted into the realm of the kitsch and trite. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to while pricing 9/11 Never Forget Tenth Anniversary thongs on cafepress.com.

If you don’t buy this, the terrorists win.

It’s not just the crass commercialization of this phrase that bothers me. America is better than anyone else at making a buck off of anything that isn’t nailed down — why should this be any different? No, my problem with the mass marketing of these two seemingly innocuous words has to do with all of the heinous and awful things that have been done under its rhetorical phrasing.
What should be a simple statement uniting a country as it processes its collective grief has become the words used to defend hatemongering, racism and fear.

Why are we torturing prisoners? Because, “Never Forget.”

Why was this man denied his civil liberties and rights to due process?  Because, “Never Forget.”

Why can’t we allow this religion to build a community center a few blocks away from Ground Zero? Because, “Never Forget.”

Otherwise rational and good people accepted the Patriot Act in all of its Orwellian glory in the name of fear and “Never Forget.”

What would this bald eagle do?

It’s absurd to think that the events of that day could ever be forgotten. For those of us who lived through that day, it is doubtful that we should need anything as ridiculous as a baby bib to remind us of the magnitude of death and destruction of 9/11 or the childlike like fear and uncertainty the following days would bring, but by making these words our mantra, we’re keeping ourselves terrified and teaching the next generation to hate.

Last year, Really Big Coloring Books, Inc. published “We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kid’s Book of Freedom.” (Presumably, they’re targeting those parents who lay awake at night wondering how they can cultivate a blind fear of “freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists” in their children.) Younger children can finally put all of those gross brown crayons to use as they color in historic scenes like “Osama Bin Laden Identified as Mastermind of Attacks” or “Osama Bin Laden uses one of his wives as a human shield during the Navy SEAL raid.”

This is an actual page from this book. For children. A book for children includes this picture for coloring. Think about that for a minute.

Older kids will have fun reading along with you as they learn interesting facts such as, “some Muslim people believe the attacks were a conspiracy caused by the Jews.” And, if your children are still confused about what separates us from them, just have them color in the giant Christian cross at Ground Zero. They’ll get the message.

Teaching the kids it isn’t “us” against “them” is so 2000-and-late.

13 responses to “Can We Forget “Never Forget” Yet?

  1. wow. okay – first of all, i appreciate you for writing this because i’ve had similar thoughts and whenever i try to spout them out, it just sounds complain-y. thank you for putting it in to a much more eloquently-sarcastic blog. i fully agree with everything you say. and i am absolutely appalled at the colouring book – you have GOT to be kidding me?!?!

    thanks again, looking forward to following you!

    • Thank you!

      I hit the roof when I saw the coloring book. The text that goes with it is equally hideous. I checked the website this morning and apparently the 2012 Edition comes with collectible “Terrorist Trading Cards.” I wish I was kidding:

      http://www.coloringbook.com/weshallneverforget9/11coloringbook.aspx

      Disgusting.

      • i can only hope and pray that no one is actually buying much less gifting this crap to anyone, ever. that makes my skin crawl, and also makes me want to become a mentor and/or work with children somehow…

      • Well said.

        Actually, I volunteer with kids through a few organizations. If you have a local chapter of 826 (www.826National.org), I would highly recommend them. Boys and Girls Clubs always need help. Lots of school districts allow members of the community to volunteer in schools as well. You should check with you local district!

      • thank you SO much for the information, i am going to look into it. we’ve got to get out of this suffocating box-like way of thinking, and it’s got to start with the kids… i mean, RIGHT?! terrorist colouring books… have they lost their bloody minds?! *deep breath* i feel helpless sometimes, but on the same token i want to get out and do something about it! haha your post got me all fired up! ;)

      • You should! Nothing makes you feel as good as you do working with kids.

        1) Kids are awesome. The way their brains work, the leaps of imagination they’re capable of, how wonderfully silly they like to get- kids rule, hands down.

        2) Nothing makes you feel like more of a rock star than working with kids. That sounds a little selfish and not completely altruistic, but most kids are so impressed with adults that aren’t their parents, that by just showing up, you’re 90% of the way to totally winning them over.

        3) It really is about the future we help create. I feel like making little, good differences helps cancel out the bad.

      • you’re awesome! i’m glad i found you.

      • definitely going to look into it further. i’ve talked about it for a long time now, it’s time to take action. thank you for inspiring me, and for kicking ass.

  2. Thanks for saying this. I’ve been thinking this a lot in the last week but didn’t have the courage to say it. It’s really alarming how we justify so much crap by deploying the memory of dead people. Also, that coloring book is wack.

    • Thank you! Much fuss has been made this year about the 9/11 museum not being ready to open on time. I cringe when I think about what kinds of cheap crap that gift shop will be stocked with. The museum itself may be tasteful, but even the Smithsonian sells really tacky crap to the tourists.

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