Sunday, September 11, 2011

Je Me Souviens

As a child, I loved going to library and checking out the VHS copies of the Peanuts television specials.  Most of them were fairly light-hearted fare -- we are dealing with the adventures of perpetual elementary school students, a beagle, and his cadre of yellow bird friends.  However, there was one that, while amusing, definitely had a more poignant message than some of the others.  (I remember this because, unlike the other Peanuts specials, I only saw it once and I still recall the message.)  It is called What Have We Learned Today, Charlie Brown?

Beagles make interesting pilots, for one.

The special follows up on the gang's exploits following their student exchange experience in Paris.  (The most "foreign exchange" I ever encountered in elementary school was wondering if the school lunch pizza was made in China.)  On the way back to London, car malfunctions derail their journey and eventually they wind up camping on a beach in Normandy overnight.  Upon waking up, Linus realizes that it is Omaha Beach - one of the beaches stormed by Allied troops on 06 Jun 1944 (D-Day.)  After Linus recounts the story of the D-Day invasions, they wind up going to Ypres and the fields of red poppies.  Linus recites the famous poem "In Flanders Fields" written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a field physician at Ypres.  The group all realize the sacrifice the service members made and the mark the wars had on people.  Linus then turns and asks "What have we learned, Charlie Brown?"

On the anniversaries of September 11th, I always hear people saying and posting on Facebook/Twitter the phrase "never forget."  And we should never forget what happened and make sure future generations who were  not alive that day have a sense of what happened that day.  In order for that to happen, however, we must do more than simply "remember" or "never forget."  We must take lessons out of that day and the bad memories.  Understand how something like September 11th happened.  Understand the meaning the event has in shaping us as people.  Understand how remembering the people who perished fits in to the grand fabric.  Letting how you make sense of the events evolve and develop over time.  Use those memories to motivate you to do something to better your surroundings, with the hope that it does something to prevent a repeat of the events.  Just plain "remembering" and "not forgetting" is a travesty.

And so is listening to bad country music.

On this tenth anniversary, take some time to not only remember those who perished or those who were profoundly changed but to understand and to learn something, anything the events.  If you find yourself or someone else simply parroting "never forget," take some time to ask, "What have we learned today, Charlie Brown?"