This September 11th, Did You Take the Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

Over the years, I've realized that on September 11th, I'll always feel the kind of pain and sadness that comes when a relative or close friend dies young, and dies violently. It's a slow, deep heartache--a yearning for what could have been if only we had more love, more unity, and more justice in this world.

Not everyone feels the same. An hour ago on the way back from my office's ground floor snack shop, I took an elevator ride with a woman who was deep into her phone conversation.

"I'm so sick of feeling like I have to be sad on 9/11," she whined. "I should go to a Korean spa to get away from all you sad people."

Even in the days and weeks immediately after the attacks, there were voices like hers, voices calling for us to get back to "normal."

Normal: Doing what George Bush suggested and shopping. My country tis of thee, sweet land of "More, more, do you like it?"

Normal: Ignoring injustice and oppression and tuning in to Entertainment Tonight, instead.

Some people cleave to normal because they don't know what else to do. And there's a comfort in that normalcy. Are you going to take the red pill or the blue pill, Neo? Do you want the truth, or a comfortable illusion, America?

It's hard to say no to the illusion because the truth requires change, and change is usually difficult. It requires sacrifice, selflessness, and a complete revolution of the way we think and live--a transformation of what we believe life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is all about.

As my friend Jose Vilson so aptly put it on Twitter, 

Perhaps that woman on the elevator doesn't even know what restorative justice is. Perhaps she doesn't realize that this is now a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Or perhaps all that restoring and remembering just gets on her nerves and she's counting down the years till she can shop the September 11th Commemoration Sale at Macy, complete with doorbusters that'll save her an extra 10 percent on the mattress of her choice.

When I lived in New York City, I loved wandering around in lower Manhattan. Sometimes I'd inadvertently end up at the foot of the Twin Towers. I'd stare up them and spin around till I got a little dizzy. I only went to the top of the observation deck on Two World Trade Center once, but I have never forgotten the feel of the breeze on my face, and I've never forgotten that glorious view.

I'll also never forget how it felt to watch the building I'd once stood on top of crumble to the ground. I'll never forget how my heart constricted, knowing that so many lives were lost, and that those of us who were still alive, would never be the same.

Several years ago I came across a promo video that Depeche Mode shot in 1990 for the song "Enjoy the Silence." It was filmed on that observation deck and now I can only watch it once a year--on September 11th. I don't mind telling you that it makes me cry.

I don't mind remembering--and doing my part to make sure this never happens again. On a day that carries so much pain for so many, it's the least that I can do.


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