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Patriot Day

11 September, 2008 (14:06) | hitch | By: hitch

I’ve been pondering the calendar entry for today (September 11th, 2008) for a few days now, not entirely certain what to make of it.
Patriot Day!
A day for patriots.
While the cynical 3/4 of my brain wants to make snarky comments about “what, we can’t be patriots every day?” there’s another part of me that understands, welcomes and appreciates days set aside to honor symbols and metaphor. The part of me that loves Christmas for its message of giving, despite the fact that we need to be more generous year-round. It’s a human thing.
No, the part of me that’s trying to make sense of Patriot day is struggling with the sudden disassociation of the words “Patriot Day” and “9-11″. It’s a sudden, jarring attack of historical perspective.
You see, I just realized how Memorial Day became just another weekend for sales, and how Pearl Harbor Day turned into a historical curiosity that my generation largely regards as a date to remember primarily because you needed it on history tests.
September 11th, 2001 was the data of a horrific event that many Americans are still trying to come to grips with. There’s a strong temptation here to say that it’s “a day that will live in infamy”, because it will. That’s an excellent turn of phrase and it applies as well here as it did to December 7th 1941.
Patriot Day, though, will not. If you went up to any American in March of next year and asked them when Patriot Day is, I would be willing to bet that you might get one right answer in a hundred. Most people, if they were even willing to hazard a guess, would probably throw out July 4th. Because Patriot Day is not horrific. And Memorial Day does not begin to encapsulate the mourning of a nation for its lost soldiers.
I’m not suggesting that naming September 11th “Patriot Day” in any way diminishes it. Time itself will take care of this task for us. By all means, every year on September 11th be the patriot that you should be all year long – be the patriot that you want to be every day. Maybe a little more will carry over into the rest of your life, just like the giving you do at Christmas might make you a better person and more likely to be generous the rest of your days. Or the drinking you do on St. Patrick’s Day will diminish your liver for years to come. It’s more that seeing the first steps of this process, watching the inevitable declawing of 9-11 into something less gut-wrenching and more palatable, I feel keenly the loss of the emotional impact that our other holidays, celebrated by rote, once likely had. This event of epic proportion, occurring in my lifetime, is one that I’ll be telling my grandchildren about. They’ll have to learn it for school, and maybe they’ll have special sales just for Patriot Day. Maybe by then it will be an intellectual curiosity, only important to international relations majors, like Pearl Harbor Day is now.
But what I really wonder, remembering how I felt that morning seven years ago and in the short months to follow….
What I really wonder is how my grandfather feels when we celebrate the service of his fallen brothers in arms by offering him a really great deal on a mattress.

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