Originally published in War, Literature & the Arts.
“I remember walking the flag-lined streets of that tiny town in the Berkshire Mountains. I remember the empty grocery store shelves—duct tape, diapers, double A’s, and Quaker oats on backorder. I remember sitting on the roof of the old orchard house to gaze at a night sky uncut by domestic flights for the first time in my life. I remember watching VHS-recorded news coverage of those two towers nearly a week after the fact (we didn’t have television; I didn’t own a car). And because I was volunteering for my country as an AmeriCorps trail crewmember, I also remember feeling an acute and immediate sense that Americans come to understand patriotism in very different ways.
I was twenty-two years old and my country was going to war. It was the first war during my lifetime that contained a sense of cause and effect I could wrap my brain around, and it came at a time when I, too, served my country. Many previous wars, dictatorships, ideologies, and political decisions had led to 9/11, but even without this context the chain of events seemed fairly direct: Osama bin Laden kills Americans on American soil, ergo Americans kill Osama bin Laden. A maxim from Gandhi that I clung to during my undergrad years no longer felt simple: “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” I wanted the symmetry of that sentence to be enough to stop all wars. For so long, I hoped that it could. For so long since, I have understood that it never will, and while that realization seemed squarely set, I would spend the next decade of my life trying to figure out what a word like “patriotism” meant in a post 9/11 world.
At the time, all I could think to do was…” –>KEEP READING: Click to read full post.