Read Between the Polls, What Will We Remember?

Dear Readers,

Where were you 14 years ago?

I was 37 weeks pregnant with my youngest child. I had dropped off my oldest at kindergarten and returned home with the toddler. I can’t remember if my father called me before or after I had already turned on the television only to catch video of the second plane crashing into the north tower. I remember standing there on the cold white ceramic tile in the kitchen wondering if we were going to go to war, wondering if I should go pick up my daughter, wondering if friends in New York City were alive.

Within hours I would hear the deafening silence of the skies – not a single plane in the sky – and the eerie stillness as businesses and offices closed early.

My father called again.

“KyoungAh, you didn’t apply for citizenship yet did you. You should get your citizenship,” he said. “You don’t know what will happen now.”

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Friends and strangers, pundits and the average Joan need to stop saying the polls don’t matter. Polls matter. If they didn’t matter, even this early in the election cycle, no one would conduct polls, report on polls, try to interpret polls, try to predict the future based on polls. We need to stop pretending that a certain candidate’s bluster is just for show and his growing popularity is a sideshow.

It’s not. I think we want to dismiss it because it’s easier to avoid the truth rather than dealing with reality.

Racism and sexism, and a particularly insidious variety of both, is what is popular and resonating with the average American voter of a particular political party’s persuasion. We can keep trying to ignore it, pretend that what he says is just “him” and not a reflection of what real people are actually thinking. His numbers have grown despite the fact that his foreign policy amounts to nothing more than “I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.”

Read between the polls. I don’t believe his supporters are stupid. I believe they hold┬áracist and sexist beliefs and values, and as a Korean American woman I am not surprised at his growing popularity because we have a history of pretending our racism and sexism isn’t really racism and sexism.

Sometimes we call it patriotism.

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Today is the 14th anniversary of 9/11. It was pouring rain earlier this morning, and now through the billowing clouds the sun is shining through. My social media streams are full of #NeverForget along with somber, thoughtful accounts of where people were when they heard the news. There are images of the two towers, the new tower, and flags.

It’s important to remember. As a Christian, a person of faith and religion, it is important to remember, to know not just history for facts but for themes, story arc, tradition, and lessons learned. Sometimes the facts point to something bigger, usually a pattern of how God is present and His faithfulness is beyond what we see or saw in the moment.

We cannot be people who forget but today I am wondering what do we remember from the aftermath of 9/11 and what do we need to remember. Have we remembered some of the details and forgotten (perhaps conveniently) others? Have we forgotten how in our fear and anger protecting America and Americans and “our way of life” also meant turning our backs and sometimes turning against some of our fellow Americans even here in America? Have we remembered only being attacked, and forgotten attacking a country we would later find had nothing to do with 9/11?

I had forgotten about my father’s request I apply for citizenship in the weeks following 9/11 when planes returned to the skies and shopping malls reopened so that we could show those terrorists they hadn’t won by shopping. I had forgotten because as a Korean American woman with fair skin and flawless English-speaking skills (I’m still learning to speak American, though) I rarely get pulled aside by the TSA. I had forgotten because my husband also is a lighter-skinned Korean American with flawless English-speaking skills, and we attended (and still do) a Christian church.

But I think my father called me, specifically to talk to me about becoming an American citizen, because he remembered something I did not, saw something in between the political posturing and patriotism. He saw how America was defining itself again. We might never be a “real” American but papers can’t hurt.

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As we remind one another, particularly on this day, to #NeverForget I want to encourage us, my dear readers, to remember. History has a way of repeating itself.

 

9/11.

“Nine years ago, I was two years old, Mom,” Corban casually mentioned during our morning drive. “And Elias, you weren’t even born yet. Do you remember 9/11, Mom?”

Yes, I remember it like every other American remembers it.

Where were you when the planes hit the Twin Towers? I was standing in my kitchen having just dropped off my daughter at school. The tv was on, but more for background ┬ánoise, as if my toddler wasn’t providing enough on his own.

What were you thinking as you watched the tv? I was thinking it was a joke, or a mistake, or an accident. And then I thought about driving to the school to get my daughter. I thought about asking Peter to come home from work. I thought it was a little over-the-top that the shopping malls were being shut down but I wasn’t getting called to bring my daughter home. I thought that this might be it.

But Corban connecting his own age to the events we have all spent more than a moment or two today remembering gave me pause to consider how my responses to his and his siblings’ questions will frame, shade and color their understanding of history made in their lifetime.

We did not watch any news coverage today. We listened a bit to radio spots about memorial services held, but we did not go out of our way to see the images – video and still photographs – again. But we continued to talk. We talked about how scared, worried, confused, angry, sad, lost and shocked I was, we all were. But I also talked about how the day was as “normal” as it could be for him, a two-year-old at the time.

So much has changed for all of us, even those of us who were only connected to the unspeakable acts of terrorism by residency or citizenship or humanity. Like some of you, I did not know anyone who died as a result of 9/11. But all of us have wrestled with the brokenness of the world in a way we did not expect.

Shortly after 9/11 Peter and I argued about something that now seems so silly. We argued over the fact that he had left shopping for my birthday gift to the last minute, which meant he couldn’t/didn’t get a gift for me until after my birthday. Why? Because in all of the post-9/11 crazy, so many public buildings were closed to the public. Every shopping mall in the metro area was closed.

We were all so terribly afraid.

Bethany had just started kindergarten and now nine years later she is in high school. Today the country commemorated 9/11 but I know she and her friends mulled over how miserable high school is.

Corban could hardly communicate and here he was initiating the conversation.

Elias was not quite three weeks away from making his dramatic but fast-paced entrance into the world.

And Peter and I had no idea how our stories and memories would help shape the future and history.

How do you remember and tell your history?