As we celebrate the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks upon the United States, I find myself experiencing a sense of discomfort with many of the commemorations. Of course, September 11 is a day which we should remember. Like Pearl Harbor, the attacks galvanized the American people and will be a day which lives in infamy. Also, those who lost loved ones on that terrible day deserve our respect and support. It is also appropriate to commemorate the contribution made to public safety by the police and fire departments of New York City and the nation. Of course, to feel the pain of that fateful day one did not have to experience a personal association with the deceased in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Americans, especially our youth, who remain traumatized by visions of people leaping from the towering infernos to their deaths below on the sidewalks of New York need community and family efforts to assuage the horror.

So why a feeling of discomfort as the community could use the anniversary as a time for healing? The problem is that much of our memory lacks any critical analysis. We continue to refrain from asking the difficult questions of why America, the supposed beacon of freedom, has become a symbol of oppression to so many in the world. It is far too simple to suggest that "they" hate us because "they" envy our freedom and way of life. Americans do enjoy a high standard of living, but we fail to comprehend that we attain this level of consumerism through using more than our fair share of the world's finite resources such as oil. Envy begs the question of confronting whether America's degree of freedom (After all, we do incarcerate a higher percentage of our population than any other nation.) is based upon an empire maintained with military bases around the world. American politicians have wrapped themselves in the flag and patriotism, refusing to acknowledge any duty as the conscience of the nation. The corporate media, conscious of advertising ratings, beats the drums for war and obediently follows the lead of the Bush administration.

Thus, the crux of my lament with the anniversary of September 11 is the self-promotion and political ends to which our grief is being manipulated. The Bush administration has used terrorism to attain a degree of legitimacy which it could not achieve with a 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision. Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose Senate reelection bid was rejected by the voters of Missouri last November, now lectures Congressional committees that their sworn democratic duty to question the executive branch is somehow subversive.

Rather than honoring the fallen, will the administration employ the anniversary to further its political agenda such as an invasion of Iraq? While Saddam Hussein is no angel, the nation's leadership has offered little proof of his involvement in the events of September 11. Yet, Vice-President Dick Cheney talks of a preemptive strike which will check Saddam before he unleashes his alleged weapons of mass destruction. The constant replaying of video depicting planes crashing into the twin towers will bolster emotional support for such an invasion regardless of whether the administration is able to marshal evidence against Iraq.

And what evidence is there that an American invasion of Iraq will assure greater security? Unilateral military action, upon which the Bush administration seems intent, will likely inflame anti-Americanism in the Islamic world, when we should be considering policies, such as better restraining our Israeli allies, which would reduce popular support for the terrorists. Despite his insistence that he has the Constitutional authority to launch a war against Iraq, in recent days the President has indicated a willingness to consult with Congress.

This is an astute political move on the part of President Bush (or his handlers) for a giant shadow will be cast over Congressional debate by the anniversary of September 11. Will Democrats and independent Republicans ask the tough questions and dare be accused of not supporting action against those whom the administration have branded as the enemies of the United States? With elections looming in November, the Democrats hope to emphasize a domestic agenda which will allow them to regain control of a narrowly-divided Congress. Yet, the Democrats fear that any debate regarding the war on terrorism might endanger their electoral possibilities. Thus, wrapping the anniversary of September 11 in patriotic fervor tends to stifle the political discourse which this nation so desperately needs.

Accordingly, I would love to share in our national mourning, but I fear that my grief may be misunderstood and used to justify governmental actions of which I do not approve. When I shed tears for the victims of the twin towers, my sorrow is equally bestowed upon the Afghan people who have suffered under Taliban rule and American bombs. I also want to sing The Star Spangled Banner and pledge allegiance to the flag without having anyone assume that my patriotism includes endorsement of an invasion of Iraq or violation of civil liberties for those of Arab descent or who question American policies. My patriotism extends to the principles upon which the American flag was established, and if our leaders stray from these high ideas it is my duty to dissent. United we stand does not entail giving up one's democratic rights.

Also, the flag waving and nationalism associated with our national observations tend to promote the idea of American exceptionalism. The attack upon the twin towers was not just an affront to the United States, but to all of humanity as so many in the international community perished. We need to recognize that Americans are part of the world community, and as such we have international obligations. As we mourn for the dead of September 11, we should also be asking ourselves what can we do to address the scourges of poverty and AIDS which have decimated so much of the world's population. As many Americans talk about making family a greater priority in their lives, we should consider our obligations to the larger world family. Rather than turning inward, we should be reaching out our hands to our brothers and sisters around the world, truly using this occasion to create a more just and equitable world. If we could do that, the victims of September 11 need not have died in vain.

Instead, of using this anniversary to campaign for unilateral military campaigns, this is a time for healing and striving to create a more just world order. Let's not miss this opportunity or let it be used for media ratings or partisan advantage.