9/11 bitterness a hindrance

On the recent anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, flags were hung, prayers were said, and tears were cried.

Teens in school wrote down their memories of the day, and those who lost loved ones gathered for support.

These are natural responses, and they can be healing for many who still bear psychological wounds from the event.

No one can question the right of Americans to feel grief, confusion and even anger.

Yet one cannot help but feel that in the constant reiteration of our grief we run the risk of opening these old wounds rather than allowing them to heal.

It is easy to look backwards, searching for explanations, comfort, or somewhere to assign blame.

One has to acknowledge, however, the potential danger of such a mindset.

Perhaps the most pertinent example of this danger is the reaction to the so-called “Ground Zero” Islamic community center in New York.

The controversy raises important questions about how we think of 9/11 and the strong emotion it still elicits.

The response to this community center would not be so strong if Ground Zero were not treated like a shrine or if the phrase 9/11 had not been made part of the national vernacular as a synonym for tragedy.

The sensitivity surrounding the event has created an atmosphere in which dissent and difference are seen as symptoms of a lack of patriotism or respect.

When we vowed to never forget what happened, we never vowed not to forgive those who slightly resemble our attackers.

It is time to look ahead. We cannot allow an excess of reverence to keep us tethered to the past. Americans are a resilient people.

New Yorkers in particular have a history of coexistence with people of all kinds. This history stretches back centuries, surviving natural crises and wars whose scales dwarf the World Trade Center attacks.

Yet some are still willing to displace the interests of innocent people because they do not want to be reminded of our moment of victimization.

This fear casts benign Muslims in shadow until the hands they have outstretched in reconciliation are blurred to look like the fists of retribution.

There are many hurdles left before the community center’s completion.

If it makes it, though, it will be a sign of vitality returning to a once-devastated area of New York.

It will be yet another example of life continuing in a nation that is a patchwork of different cultures.

Further, it will be proof that that nation’s energy is undiminished and its attitudes are unaltered.

If it fails, let the failure result from incomplete paperwork or lack of funding, not arguments tinged with prejudice or a national heartache too acute to be confronted.

Let us continue to not only look forward to a better future, but to move towards it in a way that includes people of all faiths, colors and creeds.

We will never forget the attacks that happened nine years ago, but we must not let them dictate our present actions and thus define our future.