Posted by: jt | September 11, 2008

the alpha and the omega

This post has been a draft for a long time. I didn’t write it for September 11 and there are surely those who would disapprove of me posting it at any time, especially today. However, this reflects a big part of my experience with what happened seven years ago. For a moving New York perspective, go see Dianne. I can’t give you that with any sort of authenticity. I’ve got this…

I’m tired of people apologizing to me for September 11. I cannot stand kind, warm, conscientious people from all over the Middle East taking ownership of something that was not their fault and had absolutely nothing to do with them. It makes me want to claw my eyes out that they feel obligated to apologize for something that, in all honesty, has had more of a negative impact on their lives than on mine.

But they do.

I hear it again and again and again. “As an Arab, I want to apologize for what happened on September 11.” “As a Muslim, I want to apologize for the attack on September 11.” “As an Egyptian…” “As a Moroccan…” “As a Palestinian…”

If they speak no other words of English, they have learned how to apologize for things they didn’t do.

My response?

“As an American, I want to apologize for what’s happening in Iraq.”

I phrase it exactly the same way they have, to be sure they understand me – from my words, not through an interpreter.

I hate it. I hate this guilt, this mourning, this shame, this sense of sorrow from people who have nothing to do with the violence and fear and stupidity. I hate it with such passion that sometimes I can’t see straight. I understand it – I have it – but I hate it. During the last seven years, whenever I have been abroad, I’ve had a need – a relentless need – to apologize for the Bush administration and the utter agony and yes, terror, that we, as Americans, have brought upon so many people. Without fail, everyone has thanked me and told me, don’t apologize, it’s not your fault, but this is my country. As long as I claim being an American, I have to take responsibility for what is done in my name. The slogan he’s not my president pisses me off because, yeah. He is. After 2004, there was no argument anymore. He is a legitimate American president. We the People elected him. We’re moving forward now and yes, we can change, but we can’t forgot who we are as a country and what we have allowed to be done in our name.

So, yes. I understand my Arab friends’ needs to apologize, but I wish they wouldn’t.

What I wish for is the first apology from the American government for our hideous indecencies in invading Iraq. What I wish for is the first apology from leadership within Al Qaeda for their gross atrocities on September 11. It’s unnerving to me that it seems to be equally unlikely for either of those agencies to admit their obvious, egregious wrongs. I wish that one of them would be capable of acknowledging its moral, ethical and legal failures.

I wish that the next apology I hear from an Arab or a Muslim for September 11 would be the last. I wish that American practices and policies would change so I can give my last apology for the damage we continue to do.

I wish for the Alpha and the Omega, for the first and the last, for the beginning and the end – of apologies.

I wish.



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