Editorial: Five years later, remember the right way

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

At issue:

The political and commercial exploitation of our nation’s most tragic day in recent collective memory threatens to rob Americans of the true meaning of the tragedy.

Five years ago today, America bore witness to one of the most harrowing and savage days in its history in the horrors of the rubble in New York City, the flames at The Pentagon and the tragic sacrifice of the passengers of United 93. And on Sept. 12, 2001, citizens came together as one in the time of mourning and remembrance, vowing to rebuild and bring to justice those who brought harm.

It is indisputable that the attacks changed this nation. It was proven that America, for all of her might, is not invincible. It was proven that simply ignoring the conflicts and troubles of the world around us cannot keep us safe. It was proven that this nation has the strength and will to recover and carry on as a free, open society.

Yet, we have yet to establish a clear picture of what actually happened to America as a whole and why. And as we struggle to make sense of our experiences of Sept. 11, 2001, and beyond, the memories and the meanings of that day are becoming tarnished by commercialism and partisan politics.

Evidences of the grand perversion of what should be a solemn moment in history are everywhere. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have tried to used the attacks to sabotage the opposition and gain greater power and influence by preying on a nation that no longer feels safe or secure.

Both Democrats and Republicans began flinging mud at each other with abandon, accusing the other of grave oversight that allowed the 19 fanatics to kill more than 3,000 people. Those who questioned or disagreed with their actions, motives and methods suddenly became traitors, liars and enemies of the republic. Some had the nerve to question the patriotism of a war hero who lost three limbs while serving in Vietnam.

As if the political perversion wasn’t enough, some have blatantly exploited the sentiments of the public by selling commemorative T-shirts, plates, dishes and coins. Radio stations are playing the top ten songs on Sept. 11, 2001, as a tribute. CNN.com will be offering a replay of its coverage of the attacks through its “four live unfiltered video streams.”

And some newspapers will publish shocking photos and overly dramatic headlines that do nothing but evoke cheap emotions.

There’s no arguing that we should remember the tragedy. And we must demand that Osama bin Laden and others who have perpetrated the murder of the innocent be brought to justice. But we must guard ourselves against the cheap rhetoric that attempt to prey on high emotions. That, above anyone else, is the most insidious threat against this nation.

Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the board, comprised of: Se Young Lee, editor in chief; Danielle Gaines, managing editor reporting; Shira Weissman, managing editor visuals; Kate Pokarney, managing editor on-air; Bill Miston, newscast editor; Joe Lamberson, managing editor online; Vasanth Sridharan, campus editor; Jonathon Jacobson, metro editor; Jenette Sturges, opinions editor; Dana Larson, deputy opinions editor.