September 11, 2014
The Importance of Remembering
Posted by Steph
The title to this post may have drawn you in, especially seeing as today is 9/11. Despite the fact that the date reads September 11, I'd like to talk for a minute about Ferguson.
And a few other things.
Less than a month ago, our TV screens, newspapers and Facebook timelines were blowing up with news about Michael Brown and police officer Darren Wilson. For a solid 10 days, there were articles being shared across Facebook, heated discussions and arguments taking place, and protests happening in the town that has been plagued by racial disparity for years. It was all anyone could talk about.
Until it wasn't.
Until the media became bored with it, and moved on to more important things like what's happening on the fashion runway, giggling over the latest YouTube video or gushing over the next royal baby. But the pain and tension hasn't stopped in Ferguson. Life hasn't just gone back to normal. Investigations haven't ceased. In fact, just last night, USA Today shared this article about new witnesses to the Ferguson shooting. These witnesses offered a cell phone video that corroborated with former witness statements.
But that didn't make front page news. It didn't spark heated controversial conversations. Most of us didn't hear about it - unless, like me, they sought it out. I am reminded, and working on actively remembering, that this is still a very real wound to the town of Ferguson. That this event is yet another harsh reminder that America is not the land of the free and home of the brave for all citizens. This is an instance where the reputation of police has been unfairly marred on a whole because of ineffective officers. After the first few days of a crisis, we forget.
We need to remember.
Growing up, I was best buds with a girl named Brie (note: we are actually still dear friends today, and our kids play together). In high school, she developed back pain. This pain escalated to the point where she needed surgery, and was still plagued with intense, awful debilitating pain for years after. She lived with this pain every day. And when she had surgery, people visited, brought flowers, asked how they could help. Over time, as it always does, the visitors stopped, the offers for help lessened, and people generally forgot that Brie was still living with these back issues. I watched first hand how having chronic pain in a world where people forget affects a person.
When my parents got divorced, it was a chaotic, newsworthy event. People called constantly to ask how we were doing, spent time with us, offered ways to distract us. And then, over time, these things went away. But the reality of how it hurt me, affected my life, changed me, will stay with me forever.
So I've learned the importance of remembering.
It is a disservice to the town of Ferguson and to the police force of our country to stop remembering about what happened this past August. Partly, because there are brothers and sisters still hurting there. And we should not forget their pain. We also shouldn't forget because there are deeper issues at stake. I don't want the conversations about racism in our country to go away. I don't want our brothers and sisters of color to feel that their struggle is forgotten. If people forget, if people stop talking, there will be no impetus for change.
Remembering breeds change.
I have friends who lived in New York City the day planes hit the towers in 2001. They walked through the dust-clouded streets, they saw the terror first hand, they felt the danger. This event rocked our country, and each year we spend time remembering. But the people who lived it first hand remember daily. It hurt them, affected them, changed their life. As a country, we have to appreciate that and never expect anyone to just get over it already.
Remembering breeds empathy.
Despite what our news channels would have you think, there are many horrendous things happening around the world: disease pandemics, countries at war, oppression, starvation, genocides. We often get cozy and feel a sense of security living in America. Many parts of the world will never know this safety. Choosing to forget or ignore what is happening around the world does not make those things stop happening. It makes us ignorant.
I think if we are honest, we often forget on purpose. We forget because we don't want to face the realities of what other people are going through. We forget because it makes us uncomfortable. We forget because, hey, it's not affecting me and my family, so why does it matter?
It matters because those people? Those people who are affected?
They can't escape it.
We cannot shoulder the burden of every bad thing that happens in the world. We can't take up every cause. We can't fix all the problems. But we can remember. We can live in the truth that there are things that need to change in the world. Remembering creates empathy. Empathizing gives birth to anger. Anger can blossom into passion. And passion gives us what we need to enact change.
Don't forget. Don't stop having conversations. Don't stop congregating to discuss and understand. Don't stop trying to see the world through the eyes of others. Don't stop donating your time, your money, your material things. Don't let the world silence the pain of victims so the unaffected can be more comfortable.
Call me naive, call me overly-optimistic. But I believe change can happen. I believe that the act of remembering daily, allowing myself to empathize, get angry and passionate, are the beginning steps of change. I believe that coming around one another to talk, to listen, to understand, to remember, leads to a different way.
So on this day, a day where we remember, briefly, events from 13 years ago - a day where we choose to let the media forget the overwhelming amount of important and heartbreaking happenings in our community and in our world - let us remember.
Let us be the beginning of change.