Saturday, September 10, 2011

Definition defined

First, let me follow up a little bit on the previous post.

Way back when, between 55 and 135 AD to be exact, there was a philosopher named Epictetus.  He was Roman, but got tossed out of Rome (along with all other philosophers) in 93 AD, and ended up in Greece.  He was born a slave, name unknown, but somehow managed to procure his freedom and took the name from the Greek word epiktetos (επικτητος)

Anyway, this guy was pretty bright, and he succinctly defined the whole issue the US is confronting this way.

What concerns me is not the way things are...but the way people think they are.

Meanwhile, back to the idea of Definition.

When we seek a definition, we usually go to the dictionary.  According the one I have, the word Definition means several things, but one is this:

The state of being closely outlined or determined

That's probably not the meaning we us most often, but it is an accurate usage of the word.  So, what does all this have to do with anything?  Well, you may not agree with me, and that's fine, but I'll tell you what I think.

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the attack that dropped the two World Trade Center towers, hit a section of the Pentagon, and crashed a plane into a field in Pennsylvania, collectively known as the 9-11 events.

For the past couple of weeks I've been hearing more and more about those events, often including interviews with people who were there, responders, survivors, people who lost family members, and a whole bunch of others.  There have been "replays" of excerpts from that day, recordings of instant analysis (mostly wrong) and a whole lot of "what did it mean" editorial pieces.

Tomorrow there will be memorial services, although there's been a lot of complaining about the fact that first responders weren't invited to the services at Ground Zero because of lack of space.  Personally I'm not sure who will be there that's more important than those folks, but I haven't looked into it much.Don't get me wrong here.  I believe it IS important to remember that day, the people who were lost, and the reluctant heroes who did what they did.  I'll never advocate that we forget them.

However, during all of these programs I keep hearing people who define themselves by that day.  Nothing else in their live has meaning any more.  I think that's sad.

We are all many things.  We carry with us memories of the good and bad we've experienced.  We can recall moments from our childhoods, and everything since that time.  If we're old enough we can remember where we were when Kennedy was shot, maybe when the Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall) came down, and quite likely Neil Armstrong taking those first steps on the moon.  Those were all important events, just as our weddings, the birth of our children, and many other things are.

Those of us who lived through the era of Vietnam will always remember that time.  It was unique.  If you were there, you remember the strange nature of the war.  You probably remember friends dying, or being seriously wounded.  If you were home, you remember Kent State and the demonstrations.  You may remember President Johnson saying he wouldn't run again, or Nixon and his enemies list.

All those memories are good, but we CANNOT allow events like that to DEFINE us.  We cannot spend every day saying "I watched the twin towers fall down."  We must remember, but we must move on also.  We can remember  that the attackers were Muslims, but it's very likely the woman wearing the head scarf that you see today had nothing to do with it.  We don't continue to blame all Baptists because there was a bad one once.  Is that only because it's harder to identify a Baptist walking down the street?  I hope not.

In short, we should remember.  We must remember.  But we must also move on.  I grew up during the Vietnam era, but I refuse to allow that to define me.  Yes, it colors my opinions on some things, but that's no different than growing up in any other era.  I, and many of my friends can go for weeks without thinking about it at all.

My parents grew up during WWII, but they managed to overcome whatever hatred for Germans and Japanese was running around the country.

Maybe it's just too soon, but I don't think so.  We do need to remember, but we do need to let it go.  Nothing we do now will change the outcome of that day.  Nothing we do means we care less.  Nothing we do means those who lost loved ones aren't honoring their memories.

In short, we need to remember, but we cannot allow the event to define what and who we are.  If every day is defined only by that memory, then the terrorists won.

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