11 September 2007

September 11th

I don't know that I have anything profound to say about 'September 11th'. As a 'Girardian', I feel that the theory of violent mimesis is particularly useful in understanding a lot of the dynamics behind the events of '9/11' as well as the current 'war on terrorism'.

Very briefly, the theory says (among other things) that societies maintain internal cohesion by identifying and expelling scapegoats. That is, a society has to be genuinely convinced that some person, category of person, or groups of people is responsible for all of a society's problems and that peace will reign when that person or those people are 'destroyed' in some way. The Islamic war on the West is an example of this as is the Western war on Islam. As was the war on communism; in fact, I'd venture to say that the 'war against Islam' has simply replaced the 'war against communism' as our collective scapegoat. And, following Girardian theory almost to the letter, once we'd expelled the communist scapegoat, our peace was fragile until we found another scapegoat.

Girard, I think, offers a compelling lens through which to read not only the history of nations but also Christian theology.
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On September 11th 2001, at 8:00 am my husband and I boarded an airplane in Cleveland, Ohio bound for Houston, Texas. As was the case in New York, it was a beautiful, clear day and the flight was proceeding without any problems. I had just finished eating the carry-on breakfast we'd been given when the pilot announced that we were going to have to land in Little Rock, Arkansas due to a problem with air traffic control.

It was not until we landed some time later that we were told that we had landed 'because a national emergency had been declared'. I don't actually know if the pilot knew about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or whether he was simply sparing himself the trauma of breaking the news to the plane.

After several unsuccessful attempts at ringing my parents in Ohio, we were finally able to get through to tell them we were OK. I remember my father saying 'Oh thank God!!!!' when I said 'Hi dad.' That was the last time I spoke to him before he had a stroke a few weeks later that left him with aphasia (a loss of his ability to speak properly).

My husband and I travelled by Greyhound Bus (Coach) from Little Rock to Houston the following day; a ride of about 8 hours, as I remember. We had been on our way to Houston to attend an annual conference sponsored by my then-employer; the conference was cancelled, needless to say. This was something of a surreal experience. The lady who had organised the conference in Houston actually had her offices at the World Trade Center, but she'd been in Houston early to organise the event. All of her immediate colleagues were on lower floors and were able to leave. The parent company lost about 390 people.

One woman I knew from another company who worked in the World Trade Center had been travelling on 9/11. None of the people in her firm who were in the WTC got out alive.

On the first anniversary of 9/11, I attended a mid-day service at St. Botolph Aldgate, a church where I regularly attended a noon-time Eucharist. Because of the location in the City of London, there were many firms where people had lost colleagues. What really cracked me up, though, was the card our firm sent each employee with the names of each person from our firm who had died. I couldn't look at it without crying and I still have tears in my eyes as I think of it now.

Prayers for the families and loved ones of those who died. Prayers for all those who have died at the hands of Western-sponsored violence. God's will for peace applies to all people, even those we want to hate.

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