10 Years of Project 2,996

Project 2,996 was created back in 2006. So, even though it’s not yet 10 years old, this will be the 10th 9/11 where I have encouraged others to remember these people not by rehashing their very public deaths, but by learning about their lives.

I’ll freely admit when the idea came to me that I didn’t expect it to take off the way it did. In fact, until right before 9/11 I actually had the information contained on a single page of my existing blog. Then on 9/11 so many people visited my website–to see the list and follow the links–that I used up all my allotted traffic before I even woke up. I had trouble getting my site back up because every time my webhost tried to bring it back up a flood of incoming traffic immediately took it back down. Thankfully, some of the other participants put up mirrors of the list. That first year, even though my site was down for more than 12 hours, my webhost logged more than 2 million incoming requests.

However, what shocked me was how many people were willing to sign up to learn about–and write about–someone they never met.

This year–as I always do–I invite you to learn about those killed on 9/11.

Speak Your Mind

A few days ago someone sent me a link with a series of birthday trivia—what bread cost when I was born, the price of a new car—and it included historical events that happened on June 4. Several of the events I was unaware of or didn’t remember. But one, I will never forget, as I watched it unfold on TV.

Twenty years ago, on my seventeenth birthday, as I waited for my father to pick me up to go see the third Indiana Jones movie, around the world from me a young man—of immeasurable bravery—stood his ground.

It was twenty years ago this week that the People’s Republic of China brought a violent end to the peaceful student protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.

For most of the people reading this post, the fight for your ability to think what you want and say what you want, was fought and won long before you were born. In my case (U.S.) the closest connection I have to many of them are the faces on my currency. As a young man it was difficult to understand the need to fight for such basic freedoms, and a world without those freedoms seemed abstract.

But watching as thousands of young Chinese put their lives second to the idea that they and their countrymen should be able to express their ideas, and seeing the brutal suppression of their protests, made it clear to those of us who were listening that the rights we take for granted are far from universal.

I’m a fanatic of free speech—the ACLU would consider me liberal on the subject. I can name many of the legal cases, decided over hundreds of years, that have codified my right to say what I want. But even I take them for granted—it’s inevitable when you’ve never had to fight for something.

But I’m not sure those of us who watched Tiananmen Square—who saw the Berlin Wall become irrelevant in a few short days—are able to overlook the rights the same way we did before June 4, 1989.

The West will never know how many people, students and soldiers, died at Tiananmen Square, but the number certainly reached into the hundreds—some say into the thousands. And we don’t know precisely what happened to the brave man who stared down a line of tanks (though most intelligence agencies report that he was tortured and killed). But we do know that in the 20 years since Tiananmen Square freedom has not come to the men and women who stood their ground.

It’s unfair to say the victims of Tiananmen Square died in vain, as their sacrifice gave a taste of freedom to more than 100,000 young Chinese—and freedom is a taste not easily forgotten.

But freedoms are like muscles—occasionally, they must be exercised or they will wither.

So this week, 20 years after 100,000 people you have never met, stood their ground and risked their lives for just a few moments of freedom, I challenge each of you to remember their fight by exercising your freedom. This week, stand up and say what others can’t.

This post was originally posted on Write Anything
where six writers talk about the trials and
tribulations of their writing lives. And each
Tuesday the soapbox belongs to me.

Yes, I am Against a 9/11 Holiday

Because of my affiliation with Project 2,996—an effort to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks—I have been contacted by several people who assume I would be in favor of creating a national holiday to remember the victims or 9/11. And most are rather surprised when I express my opposition to the idea.

Now, normally, I’m a to-each-their-own kind of guy, but in this case, and because of my public stance in the matter of the 9/11 victims, I thought I should at least state my reasons.

I’ll start by saying I love the sentiment behind the idea of making 9/11 a national holiday. I appreciate the thoughts of anyone who cares enough about remembering nearly 3,000 of our own civilians to campaign for a special day to remember them, but I have several objections to making 9/11 a national holiday.

But the only objection that really matters to me, is that I don’t think I can stomach the free market turning 9/11 into another reason for a car sale, or a furniture clearance event. And that’s what it it will become. Memorial Day is supposed to be a day to remember those who have given their lives in the military service of this country. But over the years it has become a day to celebrate the beginning of summer…a day for the mall to hold a slew of sales, and the opening day for half of the pools in America. But who really takes more than a moment to remember our military heroes?

If 9/11 becomes a holiday if will just become the day that businesses will end their week long Labor Day Sales Events, and I can’t think to a worse way to remember 2,996 unwitting heroes.

A Small Dose of Political Reality

I rarely talk politics. Anywhere. Not on this blog, not at work, and generally not even with friends. The reason is that most people don’t want to discuss politics, they want to lecture, and then get angry that you don’t agree with them. And I learned a long time ago, that I don’t agree with anyone on politics even half of the time. I’m not a liberal, I’m not a conservative. I used to be a Libertarian, but it didn’t take.

Politically, I consider myself a patriot. And I doubt that means the same thing to me as it does the majority of the population. I have voted in every national or state level election I have been eligible for and have never voted for the winning candidate for President, Governor, Senator, Representative or Mayor.

I relate all this as prologue, so you can take what follows with the appropriate grain of salt.

Can we all please calm down about Obama?

I’m not for one second suggesting that his election is anything but historic. And although his election may signal a change in the ugly racial history of our country, I can also accept that it may be an aberration.

But I also understand that Obama has more weight on his shoulders than any other president in recent memory. And not just the political and economic tumult he must wade into, but he also carries 400 years of racial turbulence along for the ride.

I heard a poll a few days ago that said that an international poll found Obama to be the most respected president in over 50 years. Until earlier today he wasn’t even president, and upon the writing of this post the only decisions he has made as president are how many appetizers are too many at your own inauguration ball. How can he possibly be the most respected president when he’s done nothing?

Please don’t get me wrong. I hope Obama is the best president we’ve ever had. No, I didn’t vote for him, but wishing him ill is tantamount wishing further hardships on our country. I didn’t vote for Bush either, but he was my president, and I would have felt a traitor to not support him.

Barack Obama has a hard road ahead of him, and he’s saddled with some staggering baggage. Historically, a executive and legislative branch of the same party is not a blessing—there’s something to be said for the benefit of a Devil’s Advocate. He’s also got frightening expectations to live up to.

Additionally, I’m terrified what would happen to this country if some racist nut-job happens to get off a lucky shot.

I hope he’s a great president. I hope we have turned a page in our racial history. I hope in four years that I’m ashamed that I didn’t vote for him. I hope he can repair our image and relations with our overseas allies.

And I don’t fault others for their hope.

But the history of the office is that few men can live up to their own hype. And it’s Obama’s job to earn his place in history, not for anyone to anoint him.

He should have our support, but not our blind obedience.