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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.