Photo by Anne Shurley
This date, September 11,
has become for us,
O God, a suitcase full
of jumbled memories
and emotions for the past 15 years.
As we lift our hearts and minds
to you, this day, remind us
that the real question
is not Alan Jackson’s:
“Where were you when
the world stopped turning
that September day?”
but “Where have we been
since then, and who are we now?”
Remind us that the quickest way
for terror to win is for hatred,
fear, anxiety, and xenophobia to flourish.
Remind us that it will be defeated
when understanding, hope, education,
peace, and love triumph.
Remind us that grace is the gift
we have been given
to bring to the struggle.
As a human race, O God, we
are slow to learn that death may not be
the most effective response to hatred,
dehumanization not the most healthy means
of international relations,
and preemption leaves a bit to be desired
as a reaction to terrorism.
When we fail to see the direct correlation
of escalation, somehow blinded by moral superiority,
let us not also be blinded to transforming alternatives.
Help us, O Lord, to seek paths toward peace
that have not been irreparably rutted
by the supply train of war’s weaponry.
Help nations to find workable ways
to weave justice together with mercy,
so that innocent life does not become
the debris of international confrontation.
We remember not only the potential casualties
in the civilian population, but also
the thousands of men and women
who have accepted the calling
as first responders and of soldierhood—
those who daily face the front line,
squeezing the precious tube of courage,
risking life and limb.
If ever there was a need for guardian angels,
it is on the neighborhood streets-turned battlefield.
Send your angels to do your watching,
O God. Send your angels!
More than never forgetting this date,
and what happened
across this country 15 years ago,
let us always remember,
which is not really the same.
Never forgetting is a way
of holding-on to the past,
with no clear avenue to the future;
is a gift for carrying forward,
in hopeful and life-giving ways,
the people and stories who preceded us.
May we re-member and reanimate
the lives of those
whose bravery and sacrifice
are foundations for our existence,
with enough consciousness and courage
to differentiate between love for them
and revulsion for what they had to do.
Let waving flags and unwavering pride
neither swell for the hell of war itself,
nor for the hatred
of a people we call “other”,
but for those who descended
into war’s bowels, by force or by choice,
to face the demons formed
when greed, godlessness,
and fear overcome
the common bonds of all humanity,
and when politics unleashes ego,
declaring collateral damage acceptable.
Let one-eyed squints
down loaded barrels
be not consumed
by death’s insatiable appetite;
to seek paths to de-escalation.
May our memories of those
whose lives were taken
by war in all its forms;
lives taken in whole or part,
and those whose appearance and affect
seem to have mostly dodged destruction;
be one part filled with love, respect,
and appreciation for their selfless answer
to duty’s call, and another part filled
with the grief of knowing that we must
somehow find a different road to walk.
© 2016 Todd Jenkins