Every September 11th, I dread going on social media. It’s bad enough that I’m forced to relive an awful experience every year, but it seems like everyone is exhorting me to, “Never forget!” Aside from the fact that I bristle at people telling me what to do, the vagueness of it is annoying. Am I supposed to never forget the attacks themselves? Or should I never forget the people who died? Or should I never forget the depression, anger, and powerlessness of that day? Or maybe I shouldn’t forget any of it. Personally, I’d rather forget all of it.
I imagine that the people demanding my memory be elephantine are doing so as a way of honoring those who were lost. I get that, but never forgetting doesn’t do it for me. I find it is better to honor people by living my life, trying to be good, helping others, and remembering the good times. If I fail to move on, if I let the tragedy shape my life, it seems to me I am dishonoring the victims.
Another reason I can see for forcing these memories on me is people buy in to the famous quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I’m a fan of Santayana, but I have to disagree with him on this. The French and Belgians remembered World War I vividly when they fell to the same strategy in World War II. Remembering the Holocaust hasn’t prevented a whole series of genocides since. Remembering the Soviet war with Afghanistan didn’t stop America from doing the same thing. Holding on to tragedies is counter-productive. People in American are still fighting the Civil War and the Alamo. The Israelis are still fighting the Holocaust and the Six Day War. When we “never forget” we never move on. Never forgetting keeps feuds and bigotry alive. If forgiveness is a virtue, and I think it is, we should all work on forgetting.