Thursday, August 15, 2002


Alan Dowd proposes to make 9/11 a holiday. I have heard this idea before, and while I am sympathetic to it I oppose it.

First, we haven't won the war yet, and I don't think we should celebrate what was, in essence, an American defeat--even as a somber holiday--while we are still fighting. Pearl Harbor Day, though often recognized, has not become a holiday at least in part because of its "infamy." 9/11 is much the same.

Second, Dowd proposes that it be a day without commerce, that schools and businesses be closed for the day. While this holds appeal in the abstract, the reality is there is no way to avoid commerce on this day. Americans cannot resist commercializing even somber religious holidays. (And lest we think it a modern problem, complaints about the lack of understanding of "the true meaning of Christmas" date well back into the 19th century.) Easter bunnies and Fourth of July sales are a part of our national character. Congress could regulate only so much of it, and sooner or later some state assembly would cave to business interests and allow businesses to be open. Once that happens, protection from "unfair competition" will soon ensue, and we will have stores open just as on Memorial Day.

Soon enough, sales will begin--after all, it was only October before it became patriotic to buy diamonds and automobiles. It will not be long before bad taste takes over, and "prices come crashing down" or some other hideous metaphor pollutes our national culture.

We are at war. The best way to honor those who died on September 11, 2001, is first to defeat those who murdered them. We ought not rest until we have won. I would rather see every American pause at 8:48 am and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and one of the prayers of St. Ignatius.

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
save knowing that I do your will.


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