Dec. 21—Friday—Ground Zero Plus 101
Cliff McKenzie
New York City Combat Correspondent

            I was concerned when my wife told me that President Bush recently signed a House resolution naming September 11 as Patriot Day, a new national holiday in honor of those who were killed in the Terrorist attack on the Second Tuesday of September, 2001.

The House approved the measure on Oct. 25 and the Senate on Nov. 30.
            As a Citizen of Vigilance, my concern about this new National Holiday is its name, not its intent.
            Patriotism itself is a word that often alienates people.   Some believe it means to “blindly follow government.”   Others take its meaning to stand ready to “revolt” against government, as the common Patriot Day does when it signals the beginning of the American Revolution against the oppressive British Rule.
            Patriotism, ultimately, is  political interpretation.  It allows people to be pro or con such a celebration because the name itself cleaves participants into two camps—“I am either a Patriot or a non-Patriot.”   That is, I am either “for or against America’s political institution.”
            Sadly, the rush to make September 11th a day of “patriotic remembrance” may not bode well in America’s fight against Terrorism.
            The word “patriot” has controversial meaning.  Webster defines is as “a person who loves his country and supports its interests.  Some of the synonyms for it include “nationalist,” a “patrioteer,”—flag-waver, super-patriot, or, a “partisan”—a guerrilla, irregular.
            The word itself creates polarity among the population—something quite different than what happened on September 11.   On that day, Americans bonded.  They threw away “partisan differences” and blended into one mass of humanity, grieving the loss of America’s innocence.    The “family” that rose out of the ashes of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the ill-fated Terrorist plane en route to the White House was not one who condoned necessarily “government’s actions.”    In many ways, the sadness that fell over this country was the awareness of its collective neglect, its complacency, and, most important, its vulnerability.
            Some even blame government for the lack of “vigilance” to protect its citizens from such attacks.   However, on that day, Conservative and Liberals, blacks and whites, rich and poor, all became one sad family honoring the dead victims and heroes of the historic event.
            Patriotism per se was not the cause of the union.
            Family was.

            America’s dysfunctions as a boiling pot country were put on hold.   The rift between classes, ethnicity, and political opposites melted.   We became that day, Citizens of Vigilance, Parents of Vigilance, Grandparents of Vigilance, Uncle and Aunts of Vigilance, Cousins of Vigilance.    In other words, we stopped finding fault in our family, and all put our arms around each other and held our common interests up so our disunion didn’t get in the way of our community.
            Patriotism wasn’t part of that vigil—not if it meant agreeing with government.   What did overpower that vigil was the awareness of the need for community—a vigilant community that would never let something like September 11 happen again.
            That’s why I think the House, the Senate and President Bush ought to rethink and reevaluate Patriot’s Day.   If the intention of government is to create a day to salute government—which is essentially what the word “patriot” implies—then it has slipped one over on the people.   It has tried to jingoize a day of sadness.  And, it should be corrected.
            In my estimation, the correct name for September 11 should be Vigilance Day!
            Vigilance is what we lacked on the “day of tragedy.”   Our complacency grew thick, and our bellies were bloated on the false sense of security we have enjoyed since our country’s inception.   That innocence was lost on September 11.  
            Vigilance is the state of being vigilant, according to Webster.   Its etymology from Latin is derived from vigilare—to keep watch, stay awake.  It also means alertly watchful especially to avoid danger.
            More to the point, it is non-partisan, non-political.
            Under a Day of Vigilance, Americans need to be reminded not to honor their government, but to honor their security.  
             Further, Citizens of this country need to be reminded of their roles in protecting America rather than their acquiescence to let government serve as the shield of protection alone.
            A government for, of and by the people has a duty to remind its citizens of their responsibility to keep an eye open for Terrorism.  Terrorism is a community problem, not a national one.    Terrorists walk onto buses with bombs and blow up innocent people at random, or they release gas on subways, or they send letter bombs in the mail, or anthrax messages.
            It is the mother and father of a child who must become Parents of Vigilance on those days, reminding themselves it is their duty and obligation to help protect their children and their children’s children from those who would indiscriminately attack the child, the mother, the father, the neighborhood, the community.
            Since September 11th, I have worn a black armband with the words Semper Vigilantes, 11-09-01.  In the middle is an American Flag, and underneath it the words, “United, in Death and Life!”
            I support America’s families, its children, its parents, its grandparents, its uncles and aunts and cousins and nephews and nieces by wearing the armband.   I wear it to remind myself to be “vigilant,” ever watchful, non-complacent about Terrorism and all its nefarious forms.
            The use of the American Flag on the armband is not about “patriotism” in the sense that I embrace government, or believe that nationalism is loving your country to the extreme that your single viewpoint is the “right one,” and all others are “wrong.”   I wear the flag as a symbol of the differences of the nation of America, and the right we have under our Constitution to revolt against government if it takes too heavy a hand in the administration of our rights.   I wear it because I know the citizens of this nation are the government, and the government is not in “charge” of its people, even though it often thinks it is and acts like it is.
            Vigilance to me, includes keeping a watchful eye on the Terrorists within America as well as without.   The Terrorists within include government, and its tendency historically to seize power from the people and abuse it.  
            Patriot’s Day is one such example of that misuse.
            Changing Patriot’s Day to Vigilance Day, would correct the imbalance.
            On such a day I have no problem with lowering the flags to half-mast.  I have no problem with a national holiday—in fact, if we convert Patriot’s Day to Vigilance Day, and the speeches that ring across the land are about keeping a watchful eye not only on the external Terrorisms but the internal ones as well, then I believe Americans will have honored those who died in the horror of September 11th with the greatest possible gift—a day to remember to not forget.
            Patriot’s Day can grow into another Fourth of July—a demanding celebration of government, rather than a reflective day of taking inventory on what actions need to be taken to protect our children and their children’s children from future Terrorism

             If we let Patriot’s Day stand, we aren’t being Vigilant.   We are turning over our rights one more time to government.
            Vigilance, by its nature, invokes Courage.  And the courageous act for government to take it to change the name of Patriot’s Day to Vigilance Day. 
                                    Go To  12-20 --Terrorism's Olympic Torch

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