Saturday, September 29, 2012

Yom Kippur: The Day of Decision

“This is the Day of Decision . . .”

“ . . . in the camps and streets of Europe mother and father and child lay dying, and many looked away. To look away from evil: Is this not the sin of all “good” people?”

“Turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why should you choose to die, O House of Israel?”

--Sha’arei T’shuvah: The Reform Machzor



Our lives are fleeting, like a leaf that rides on the river of time, for a while, and then subsides, while the river flows on. This is one theme of Yom Kippur and the High Holy Days in general, timed as they are in the month of autumn, from the dark of the moon to its waxing. This year the Engineering Geek and I felt this acutely, as our daily household has shrunk to just the two of us, with both children up and out.

This gives us both pause about where we are in our lives, with more years behind us than ahead, but it also confers a certain freedom, and one way that we expressed it was to choose to spend Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur differently, cutting ties to the synagogue where the children were raised. We went to the small, eclectic and egalitarian shul in Flagstaff, taking a hotel room in order to experience Yom Kippur free of the distraction of long distance driving. Of course, in the odd way of the Jewish world, where smaller degrees of separation abound and bind across continents, we found connections with the president of the congregation, another member who remembers me as a very pregnant cantorial soloist, and the rabbi herself, with whom I share a mentor, a study partner, and a course of study.  

And for the first time in our ten years of marriage, the EG and I also were free to really spend some time on the Day of Atonement studying the Machzor—the High Holy Day Prayer Book—free of distractions. This was a boon we had not counted upon, and it worked out because the little shul has an organized morning service followed immediately by Yizkor (the Memorial Service), after which there is a long break until Neilah, the evening service just before breaking the fast. Not wanting to put ourselves in places of commerce nor to go back to the hotel, we went instead to Buffalo Park—a huge open space under the San Francisco Peaks—and there we found a lone marble bench facing the mountains, cloud-shadowed beyond a field of yellow daisies, where we prayed the afternoon service for ourselves, stopping to discuss and comment upon it along the way. And as is always true for me, themes that match what is going on in my inner and outer life fairly jumped out of the pages of the Machzor, demanding to be confronted.

Yom Kippur is, as the prayer book says, a day of decision. The image is the Book of Life being open at the Seat of Judgment, as every human being chooses between good and evil, life and death:

You open the book of our days and what is written there proclaims itself, for it bears the signature of every human being. . . This is the Day of Judgment . . .”

But the problem for many Jews is that we have taken a concept of judgment from the dominant culture, one that is foreign to our own world view. This idea is that human beings should eschew judgment altogether, that it is wrong to make a judgment—which I cannot help but point out, is a judgment itself. For because human being have the capacity to make decisions, we must necessarily make judgments between good and evil, between right and wrong, between life and death. Judgment is not an option, and it is also not something to be feared:

Your love is steadfast on Judgment day, and you keep your covenant in judgment . . .

You penetrate mysteries on Judgment Day, and you free your children in judgment . . .

You uphold all who live with integrity on Judgment Day . . .

On Yom Kippur, we take the time to ponder, to burn away the clouds of mystery, and to make judgments about ourselves, determining where we have failed in judgment and where we have gone beyond our own boundaries, in order to restore integrity to our lives.

Beyond our own lives, we must make judgments about our world. We cannot say: Who am I to judge this policy, this action, these people and their behaviors? We Jews know what the sin of silence and the sin of indifference mean.To refuse to judge evil as evil, and evil doers as evil doers is to allow it and to become a part of it. There are no innocent bystanders. And those who claim to desire peace but refuse to confront evil cannot create peace, rather they will bring death and destruction upon themselves and upon those who excuse them, for to excuse the guilty is an injustice waged upon the innocent.

In the praying of the services, in the thoughts that the words in the Machzor inspire, and in our discussion of them, I have made some decisions for myself, or I have set the standards and benchmarks for decisions that I expect to need to make this year. Over the years of my upbringing and education, and on into young adulthood, I had developed the habit of self-censorship in response to a great many things, and over the last 11 years I have made a concerted effort to rid myself of this habit, for it is a dangerous abdication of the mind and heart. I will continue to root this out of my life, and replace such fears and hesitations as I may have with reliance on making judgments that are just and true. This year, more than ever, as our world spirals out of control and our civilization seems bent on suicide, this emphasis on truth and justice as the basis of judgment becomes more important than ever, and that integrity is something I want to restore in small ways as well as large, and in my personal as well as any public life I might have.

There are other conclusions that I have come to in order to fulfill my desire to mend my errors and to  be proud of what I have written in my book of life, and perhaps I will share more of them at another time, but I know that confronting untruth will be my greatest challenge. The Hebrew word for truth is EMET and the Hebrew word for justice is TZEDEK. EMET and TZEDEK will be my words for 5773. These are big words, and knowing my own weaknesses regarding them, I take pause before them. They require great  courage and discernment both, and i tend to err on both. And yet I long to come closer to these marks. I may not have the power to change the world that seems to be hell-bent on destruction, but creating an island of order and sanity within the chaos is a worthy goal.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Shabbat Shuvah: The Foreign Gods of Today

“The Eternal said to Moses:

You are about to sleep with your fathers,

and this people will rise up and go astray

after foreign gods, where they will go to be

among them, and break my Covenant . . .

and many troubles and evils shall befall them.”

Devarim 31: 16, 17

As Jews, we are now in the midst of the Ten Days of Turning, the days between Rosh Hashanah, when we celebrate the Birthday of the World, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most solemn holy day of the year. The Sabbath that falls between these two holy days is Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath on which rabbis and maggids (preachers) commonly give a sermon on the art of turning and returning to the path of righteousness.

When the Engineering Geek and I took a few moments for Torah Study on Shabbat, with all of what had happened in the past weeks in mind, we noticed a part of Parashat Vayelich that the Women of Reform Judaism’s Torah Commentary remained silent about. Devarim  (Deuteronomy) is set as Moses’ last speech, with some interpolations that move the story along. In Vayelich (He Went), Moses learns that he has reached the end of his long life, and that he will die before the people Israel enter the promised land. The Women’s Commentary therefore focuses on what this means for Moses, and the reasons given and implied for his death at the moment of his people’s freedom.

But given the stark choices that confront us all in the world today, and the contradictory and craven behavior of our Executive  Branch in the face of the renewed attacks on the United States through our embassies--attacks used to threaten our most basic freedoms--the Engineering Geek and I focused on the passage that the commentary passed over. In it, a prediction is made by the Eternal. The people will cross over, and they will build lives in the land, and become complacent (“. . . they shall have eaten their fill and waxed fat. . .”, 31:20), and that is when they will be vulnerable to turning away from their heritage and their purpose, and follow after foreign gods that they have not experienced. When this happens they will, the story predicts, forsake the Covenant, and bring upon themselves many “troubles and evils.”

In encountering this story, we ask ourselves, what are foreign gods in the context of our identity as Americans today? Most of us do not literally bow down to idols of wood and stone made by our own hands. And many of us bow down to no gods at all. Further, this passage is about what happens when many members of a society make a choice to change their basic beliefs about their civil identity, and forsake the heritage given them by previous generations.

In Hebrew, the United States is known as Artzot ha-Brit shel Amerika, ( ארצות הברית של אמריקה) the Land of the Covenant in America. This is a recognition that our unique identity is forged not by blood ties, but that who we are is based on our choice to abide by a set of ideas that are protected by an contract, the Constitution of the United States.

On September 11, 2001, many of us were rudely made aware for the first time in a generation that our ideas about who human beings are and what we define as the good life in our civilization were under attack; that another set of ideas opposes ours, and that proponents of those alien ideas are willing to make war upon us, and to fight and die to see that their ideas prevail in the world. On that day, as the towers fell, we instinctively drew together, and the day after, we put up our flags and remembered that we were Americans.

As the EG and I talked about all this, we realized that we Americans had grown complacent indeed, and that we have been in the process of forsaking our Covenant of respect for individual rights, thereby giving up cherishing the uniqueness of each individual, and had begun to turn away toward concepts foreign to our native values. This hankering after dependency and collectivism, the easing of responsibility and individual liberty, was possible because we forgot the origin of the wealth and innovation that made our comfort and ease possible. In so doing, we were turning to foreign gods, ideas that are in opposition to our Covenant, and cannot possible co-exist with it.

Islamic thought, with its focus on totalitarian submission to a theocratic state, has developed from premises alien to our enlightenment values, and is driven by a civilization that is not at all complacent or passive. Islamic teaching emphasizes the necessity of bringing the whole world into submission to ideas that are incompatible with our own. Our Western forbearers have resisted these idols before, at Tours with Charles Martel, and twice at the Gates of Vienna. 

But now, with our Covenant weakened by dreams of collectivist utopias, we see our leaders actively chasing after alien ideas, appeasing our enemies with apologies, and proclaiming a willingness to surrender our basic rights to foreign gods. We must rethink our liberties, they say, in the face of the Ba’al of the Riot and the Mob. It is our children whose birthright of freedom is to be sacrificed to satisfy the insatiable fires of the barbarian hordes.

And yet, there are those among us who have sounded the alarm that there can be no compromise with those who wish to supplant our values with their own, and no surrender without the total loss of our American identity. Like the prophet in the Haftarah for Shabbat Shuvah, they tell us:

“Asshur shall not save us . . .neither will we call anymore the work of our hands our gods . . .”

“Give not your heritage up to reproach, that the nations should make you a byword; Should they say among the peoples: Where is their G-d?”

We cannot make treaties with the alien thought of Egypt and Libya and at the same time retain our own unique identity. Foreign ideas and values cannot be assimilated without destroying our own. Oil and water do not mix, and nobody can compromise with poison and live.
It is one or the other, and we must not listen to those who would so lightly surrender our liberty, our values and principles to those who would destroy us. 

It is amazing how the struggles of old, couched in religious language, are relevant still, and tell the same stories that we experience, although we tell of them differently. 
Just as Israel of old had to choose or be broken on the contradiction between her identity and that of the idols, the same is true for us today. We must choose rightly or be broken on the contradiction between our own values and those of Egypt and Libya and the whole of the Muslim Brotherhood with its Islamist nightmare. Liberty and submission cannot be combined. Individual rights will not co-exist with the Ummah, the collective nation of the Islamic State. 

It is my hope that in this season of turning we gather the courage to say what is real, and  to acknowledge the truth in our hearts. And that we do not close our eyes to the troubles and evils that are about to befall us, and that we recognize that they are a consequence of the fact that we are in the act of forsaking our Covenant, the one that has made us the envy of the world and an inspiration to among the nations.

We need to wake up and to recognize how greatly we have prospered by the values and principles bequeathed to us by our founders, so that we can preserve our liberties and bequeath our inheritance—the Covenant of Rights and Liberties—to our posterity.

This remains my hope in the face of growing darkness.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rosh HaShannah: The Turning of the Year

New Mexico Sunflowers in Rock Garden

     "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, they  shall never hold their peace, day or night."  Isaiah 62:3

This morning we awoke to a sunny and cool, early fall day, mists rising from the ground, and the sky in the south and east milky white in contrast to the deep blue New Mexico sky to the northwest. After a week of wind, clouds and rain, we were happy to see the sun. As the Catron Kid went riding on Chapo, the Engineering Geek and I started out of the front gate with three of the dogs, anticipating a Shabbat walk along the western fences of Freedom Ridge Ranch. The cool morning turned into a warm and sunny day as we climbed up the mesa to the northwest, greeting the other two horses, grazing up there in the high pasture.

We noted how the year is turning, talking about some of the things we want to do this coming year on the ranch: putting a windmill and solar combined tower up along the ridge behind the house, divide the high pasture, and divide the front pasture, get the solar completely installed, and take more walks like this one, enjoying the beauty of the place.

Early fall on the Continental Divide is different in appearance from what I grew up with and even from what we experienced in the East Mountains. Here, instead of bold oranges and browns, with the grass of soft wheat color, we see water in the stock tanks, and pooling in the draws and washes, a gift of the late days of a good Monsoon. The grass is green from the water, and the sky soft blue, like spring in more conventional parts of America. The boldest colors come from the yellow Black-Eyed Susans and New Mexico Sunflowers, the orange and pink of Globe-Mallow, and the blues and purples of various clovers, gilias and penstemons, and the rare orange-red of Indian Paintbrush on the high mesa tops and along the washes in the canyons. Fall steals into this high country on the heels of the late summer wildflowers, color dotting the gray-green of the range subtly, as the days grow shorter and sunshine replaces the late-afternoon Monsoon rainfall. The days grow shorter, the shadows deepen and the nights grow even cooler.

And with the turning of the year, we mark the New Year for Years, Rosh Hashannah, which falls on the first day of the seventh month in the Jewish Calendar. As the heat of summer fades, we welcome a new beginning just before the harvest: 5773. As we took our walk, we savored the peace around the Sabbath noontide, and we did not speak of our fears and concerns, heightened this week by the world's slide into chaos, and threatened Israel's complete isolation as it deals with the threat of annihilation.  It is easy, way out here, to move with the turn of the earth, the comings and goings of the herds and flocks, and the blowing of the wind. It is quiet, and the nature of the place and its solitude knows not of human strife, chaos and wars. New Mexicans outside the three cities we have in the state are accused of being provincial, and we are, being far removed from the goings on beyond our mesas and mountains. "The mountains are high," we say, "And the king is far away."

But even without television (we have one, but we don't get broadcast TV --or radio--in our canyon), we do hear of what is happening "out there," although it seems far away. So inevitably, when we returned from our two hour hike up the mesa and around and down, and turned to the Haftarah, the perils our country and our people face stared up at us from the printed page, the words of a prophet writing  more than two-and-a-half millennia ago. There is nothing new under the sun in the affairs of men, I thought, though that idea comes from a Megillah we will read later in the fall, at Sukkot.

Perils for Israel, deserted by the President of the United States, her Prime Minister snubbed and denied a meeting even as the her people prepare for war, and the Jewish People across the world face new threats from a very old prejudice. We fear for the safety of that tiny country where our prophets and kings once walked. And we fear for the integrity and safety of our own country and its people, and for our people everywhere.

But this Haftarah that complements Parashat Nitzavim in Torah, is the last of the seven haftarot of consolation. And in it, Isaiah--writing to a people in exile--speaks of victory and restoration. And so it speaks to us now, and to our great concern in the midst of a world sliding once again into chaos. It says to us, war and destruction are not outside out experience, and yet we are still here. We have stood on the edge of danger and peril before, and yet we are still here, able to reason in the face of our fears, to annul the plans of our enemies as necessary:

Who is it coming from Edom, with crimsoned clothing from Bazrah?  Glorious in apparel, stately in greatness of his strength? I who speaks in victory, mighty to save. . . .
. . . I have trodden the winepress alone, and there was no man with me;      Yes, I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my fury, and their lifeblood is dashed against my clothing, and I have stained all my raiment. For the day of vengeance that was in my heart, and my year of redemption have come.        And I looked and there was none to help, and I beheld in astonishment and there was none to uphold. Therefore, my own arm brought salvation to me, and my fury, it upheld me.  (Isaiah 63: 1; 3 - 5)
This year, as Rosh HaShannah approaches, and greetings come to us from Israel, we hear a message very different from earlier years. Then we heard greetings that were upbeat, anticipating the happiness and contentment to come. "It's gonna be a good year!" Now we hear echoes of Isaiah from Latma, from the IDF: "We are not afraid. We are ready, we are standing guard. The Eternal is riding with us. Others tried to destroy us, and where are they?" 

As we come again to the turning of the year, we find ourselves deeper into the Fourth Turning and closer to the crisis. The outcome of the crisis and the shape of what follows very much depends upon the decisions that we make about how we will face what is coming and what we choose to do. It is a fearful Rosh Hashannah this year, knowing that Israel stands alone, threatened with nuclear holocaust; remembering the High Holy Days of 1973 (5733) when Israel was also fighting for her life, alone, while Jews the world over spent Yom Kippur listening to clandestine radios in services, hands clenched, hoping and praying for her survival. This year, once again, we will find ourselves praying for the peace of Jerusalem, hoping against hope that Israel will be able to remove the growing threat without starting World War III.


And in the coming year, may all of us find those points of light, those moments of happiness and those days of contentment in our lives, and those transcendent moments of joy and beauty in the world, that remind us of why we hope and why we work to make each moment, day and year of our lives fruitful and full of goodness and plenty.

Kayn y'hi ratzon!

And may 5773 be a good year for us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven Years Later: My September 10th Persona

“Oh beautiful for Patriot’s dream that sees beyond the years;
Whose alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.
America, America, God mend thy every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy Liberty in Law.”

Towers of Light
As I write tonight, two shafts of blue light rise into the Manhattan sky. Three quarters of a continent away, they commemorate the last time that September 11 fell on a Tuesday, when our country was attacked out of a clear, blue sky, and when a generation lost its innocence.

I was teaching that morning, and my car pool driver and I were very nearly late for work. I had a head-ache and a heart-ache after a weekend of conflict with my sixteen year old daughter, and we had agreed not to listen to the radio, so the drive in was peaceful that morning as we listened to Vivaldi’s Autumn. I remember thinking that our fellow Albuquerque drivers were unusually polite that morning, as my friend skillfully maneuvered in traffic, and parked so that we could each dash to our respective classrooms. Stopping by my own classroom to pick up my lesson plans and basket, I arrived at the demo bench for my Physics for Poet’s class just as the final bell sounded. I put my basket of teaching materials on the bench and remained standing as the intercom clicked on, and I expected to hear a Senior’s voice say: “Please stand for the prayer and the Pledge . . .” (I was teaching science in a Catholic High School at that time). Instead, I heard the chaplain across the air, his voice shaking as he said: “Because our country is under attack, I have been asked to give the prayer. . .” I remember looking questioningly at my students, who looked back at me, big-eyed and solemn. And I knew that we had all turned a corner at that moment, although I had no idea at all what had happened.

The ubiquitous “they” say that now that we have passed the tenth anniversary of that day, we need to get over it, to move on. But every year, when I tune into the morning radio show I listen to, I hear a montage of the sounds of that day, and I know that “getting over it” is not something that I want to do, or could if I tried. Moving on is something that we have all done, although that movement has been a journey down an unfamiliar road, to a different trajectory. There are some moments that bind us together, that change us irrevocably, that replace the easy familiarity of how we think things will always be in the instant that a plane struck a tower on a clear, blue Tuesday morning.

Today, some of us across the country have chosen to use this day as a day to reflect on who we were on September 10, 2001, and on how the events of that day, seared into our brains, have changed us, spun us around on our paths, and put us on a path to become September 12 people. So tonight, as the rain falls on the metal roof of a house in a place that I had never expected to live, I resolved to do this, to begin to sort out how I got from there to here. September 11 did not sweep me from one reality to another; that process had already begun, brought about by a more personal crisis a few years before. But it did irrevocably change so many things, although those changes were gradual and hard won.  

On September 10, 2001, my life was already in flux. A cancer had already turned my head around and caused to me question the choices that I had made and was making. In the two years since I had a lump removed and prophylactic radiation done, I had chosen to buy a house for me and my two kids and to leave my marriage. It was not that life was easy before. I had taken sole responsibility for the support of my kids and their dad, and working two and three jobs at a time, and I had burned myself out getting a teaching certificate because I knew that life as a field biologist was not going to work for us, and that chasing research and post-docs and professional appointments was not going to put food on the table and clothes on my children’s backs. I had responsibilities, and it had been clear since before the birth of my son that I had no partner in those responsibilities.

On September 10, 2001, I had found my bashert—my beloved Engineering Geek--and our relationship was strengthening, solidifying, I had found my Baruch, my blessing; the one that I craved and was too afraid to ask for. I was ready to let myself be loved, to let myself be taken care of in a way that I had never had during all the years of my first marriage: my childbearing and rearing, worrying and working years, years in which my children were born and nursed in between classes and jobs, and in which I watched a darkness grow in my first husband, until it consumed him and me, but not the kids—thank goodness, not the kids (or so I thought)—and I was left with a broken man and a broken marriage.

So much was my joy at finding a man—a real man—who wanted to share my life, take care of my kids, make a home together, that I was utterly consumed. And so on September 10, 2001, I was coming off of the weekend of my daughter’s 16th birthday. Sweet 16, and I disappointed her greatly, because I wasn’t able to give her the fantasies that she and I had dreamed up during the hard times. I didn’t rent a hotel room for her and her friends (hotels were frowning more and more on those kinds of teen parties) and during the sleepover she had with her friends, I left them alone to entertain themselves (as I had done with great pleasure at her age), never realizing that she wanted me as June Cleaver —apron and all—to serve the snacks and make a general nuisance of myself. I have no excuse to offer really, except that my generation had rejected poor June Cleaver as the epitome of The Feminine Mystique, and I was head-over-heels in love at the time in my daughter’s life when she was most embarrassed by adult love and, well, by parental adults and their weird behavior in general.  

On September 10, 2001--the day after my daughter’s Sweet Sixteenth, the day that would have been my 19th wedding anniversary to her father—on that evening, my daughter and I had a knock-down drag out argument, complete with frustrated yelling (on my part), angry yelling and door slamming (on hers), and  hormones and tears (on both our parts), asthe tension that had been building between us all weekend created a storm that shattered my sense of efficacy as a mother and sent her to bed with a blinding migraine.

And so on the morning of September 11, I was a chastened mother with a headache, contemplating for the first time my failures as a mother—for it Betty Friedan was right about nothing else, she knew this: it’s always the mother’s fault. And I was still a woman in love, a woman wanting badly to have her new love and her most precious loves all come together to make a family, and maybe this time it would all work out.

And on the morning of September 11, I was also a woman who had sworn off politics. Raised by a libertarian and an Objectivist, I had made a left turn in my first marriage, only to find that all the virtues I thought were there were not, and all the vices—the hatreds and anti-Semitism, the uncaring inhumanity—that I thought were with the conservatives and the libertarians, were present in the watermelon pink of the Greens. So I had recently vowed—I who had never voted for a major party for president in my voting life—that I would be normal and live my life without thinking about politics. Much. Growing up Libertarian was exciting and confusing and exhausting. And it wasn’t easy being Green, either, and rather awkward, really, for someone brought up on Ayn Rand. (Ayn Rand did NOT ruin my life, by the way. But that’s another story . . .)

On the morning of September 11 I was a woman with a life already in the process of change. I was a woman trying to figure out how to create the family I had forgotten I wanted with the very real children I had and a new man who had never changed a diaper or walked the floor with a colicky baby. I was a woman who was trying to figure it out, but I already had felt the cold wind blow, and I had already heard the question, old as Gan Eden: Ayecha! Where are you?

And all that day, I read Psalm 23 for each class I met, and  I struggled to answer my students’ bewildered questions, and I altered lesson plans because I knew they would not remember anything we said and did that day, but only the image of the towers falling, over and over, burned by retina on the canvas of our minds. All that day I thought about the people who would never go home, and about the people who would wait in vain for their return. I thought about those who jumped to their deaths from the burning towers, and those who watched helpless, and heard the impacts, over and over. They were people who went to work, just like me, on that sunny Tuesday morning, the perfect day. And their families waited, just like mine, for work to be done and to be together again, to fight and make-up, to eat and laugh and play and sleep. They were Americans, just like me, who went to work and now would never come home.

Is it then surprising that the first thing I did was try to call my daughter, home sick with the aftermath of her migraine? I did. I called right from the classroom phone, my students a few feet away, trying to tune in a radio to hear the news. But the circuits were busy. And busy again. “Please try your call again later,” said the computer voice. And the second call I tried was to the Engineering Geek at his office at Sandia National Laboratories. But they were evacuating Sandia because they were closing Kirtland AFB, and the EG was nowhere to be found.
All I wanted to do was to call people I loved and cared about, to hear their voices, to make sure they were safe and whole.

And it was utterly impossible to connect to a website or send an e-mail. Everybody was in the computer. Everybody.

Later, I connected with both of them, the EG and my daughter, but it wasn’t until months later that I learned that the EG was out picking out my diamond engagement ring that day, and wasn’t even at Sandia when the towers fell and the base was evacuated.

And that is what everyone else was doing, too. At the same time. We all needed to reassure and be reassured, to touch something beyond the terrible images we were seeing on our TV screens. The kids at the Catholic school where I was teaching wanted to call their folks, to see the Chaplain, and that afternoon, they called for a school-wide Mass. They needed to see their friends, to come together, to right their rocking world.

That was the first lesson we all learned from the murder of over 3000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93. How much we need to connect to each other, to reassure one another when such dire things happen.

That was the first, but there were others: how beautiful is Old Glory, lighted by candlelight, half-mast on the porch. How precious our peace and freedom are, and what it takes to defend that liberty from those who would disturb it. How aware even little kids like my son was, and how hard they work to make sense of their world. How angry a 16-year old can become, to see her country attacked and how wisely she can direct that anger, once the first grief has passed.How much passion we all have for the country of our birth and of our dreams.

There were many others in the path from being a September 10th person to becoming, very slowly, a September 12th person. Today is for remembering, and for reflecting on the beginning of that journey. Tomorrow, September 12, is for looking at how we have changed and making a commitment to stand up for the principles and values that we’ve always had but only too recently remembered.