Patriotism comes in many forms: a football player kneeling during the National Anthem as witness to inequality; or party members breaking ranks to vote for or with someone on the other side; or protesters for equal rights; or volunteers putting themselves in harm's way to defend country, fellow citizens, those seeking political asylum; or patriots who defend the right of free speech -- even if it means defending the person whose view they disagree with.
Commemorations of 9.11 take a familiar shape -- flags flown or planted, names read, museums visited, solemn television programs watched. But these are inadequate expressions of complicated responses. Several years ago, students at the College planted flags on the Quad in memory of "those who died." About three thousand flags. It's a touching tribute, but a limited one. Even that first year, I wondered What about the thousands and thousands of others killed in wars stemming from that event? Every year since, I have become increasingly increasingly uncomfortable with the display. What about the hundreds of thousands killed or maimed or thrown into migration or suffering or fear as a consequence? Do we think of them?
Literature provides the most fitting response for me.
Renegade 911 by Jim Wright
Leap by Brian Doyle
And The Falling Man by Tom Junod