Today we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. It's a time to mourn the thousands of victims of that day's unfathomable violence and the millions around the globe who have suffered in its aftermath.
Children born in the aftermath of that nightmare day are now in middle school. Others, living lives without parents or siblings lost in the attacks, have reached what we define as adulthood. And for the empty spaces in each child's life, for the empty seats at the table in homes and for the lives of the families left behind - forever changed by that day - we mourn. We commemorate the suffering of these families and friends and their bravery in finding ways to go forward.
Today is a good time, too, to renew our commitment to the ongoing battle to secure the values of liberty, freedom and democracy that have been crushed in the response to the tragedy of 9/11. It is a time to declare our fundamental human rights and claim them again. It is a time to look back to the personal rights we had when 9/11 happened and to stop and look at the losses, beyond life itself, that are the aftermath of that tragic day. And it's time to look at the rights we've lost - not visibly in response to the day, like the right to personal choice about our health and our bodies, or the right to freedom of sexual speech and expression, but in the social climate created by fear and terrorism.
That's a climate where we find comfort in controlling whatever we can control; a response to discovering we are no longer safe and that there is nothing we can really do about that. And personal freedoms are the easiest thing to control.
In the first paragraph of this post, the last line, I said the "f" word - "families." I didn't define it and I would venture a guess that none of you reading this post gave it a second thought beyond the meaning of the word itself: a group of people interrelated by their caring and commitment to one another.
What kind of a world have we allowed the radical right to create for the children of those victims of 9/11 when a law can be passed that no unmarried couple can foster or adopt a child - that puts 1100 children back into a foster care system? (Arkansas during the 2010 election of President Obama.) There are states where it is illegal to live together without the "benefit" of marriage. (Florida, for example, right this minute!) And a state where they are discussing making it illegal for a pregnant woman to consume any alcohol.
How have we honored the victims of the tragedy of 9/11 when we have stripped their wives, sisters and children of access to reproductive freedom? How have we honored the victims when we have made a family something you have to fight in court or vote on to achieve?
These aren't people who died fighting for this country, but they did die in our country, believing that our country stood for certain things. We have allowed voices like Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin and a long list of others to craft a world those victims wouldn't recognize as America. We have allowed our elected officials to behave in ways that, had they been in school rather than Congress, would have drawn a stern rebuke for childish nonsense.
These are not children, and the bullying and poor behavior has impacted our lives in ways most of us can't even comprehend. We have a Speaker of the House who treats the office of the President of the United States with disrespect and disdain. And I say "the office" because no matter who sits in that seat, the office itself deserves respect! This is a man who stated that his primary goal is to ensure that President Barak Obama is a one term President.
How do we stop this insanity? Well, there's an election in 2012. Speak with your vote!
Let us promise today that we will reclaim the world the victims of 9/11 left - as imperfect, as flawed and as corrupt as that might have been - and that we will turn back the clock on a movement that seeks to restrict every personal liberty guaranteed to the families and victims we honor today.
The rhythmic sound of a drum beat as mourners approached the memorial this morning can also be heard as the ticking of a clock. Let us reclaim our fundamental human rights; let us reclaim our America; and let us reclaim control over our bodies and our lives!
And so we will honor those who died on 9/11 - ten long years ago. Let us recognize the glorious promise of America and stand together, united in mourning, and reclaim that promise!