The 9-11 legacy fading

Friday, September 14, 2012

Since the dawn of music videos 30 years ago, we've been hearing how our culture has geared itself to a shorter and shorter attention span. With cell phones and tweets, the phenomena has only accelerated.

There seems to be a correlation in how the public processes its wars.

Certainly, the Veterans Home in Mt. Vernon deserves great credit for sponsoring a welcome home parade for Vietnam veterans last weekend. America is finally healing from that war 40 years ago. But the fact that it has taken 40 years also doesn't speak well for what followed.

Frankly, the parade for the Kuwait-Iraq-Afghanistan veterans was due the next day. Certainly it's due before another 40 years pass.

We've processed loss. The recognition of Gold Star families for the loss of their soldiers carries great meaning. The recognition of Teresa Stark on Sunday for the death of her son, Specialist Christopher Stark, in Afghanistan echoed with symbolism, acknowledging the heavy price paid. Those of us who know Teresa Stark shared the poignancy of the moment.

This week we saw flags flying at half-staff in Monett. For a brief moment, the sight of those flags brought back the memory of that terrible day in 2001. The gush of patriotism that followed was unlike anything our country had experienced in decades.

And yet, unlike the generation that lived through World War II, we in the heartland of America seem unable to find lingering meaning in marking 9-11. While we remember the patriotism that followed, the WWII generation had a more potent reminder in the absence of those called up for service, the many funerals of soldiers in subsequent years and the lingering uncertainty of what was happening to our boys, a feeling everyone in the community shared.

In our fast-paced MTV world, we seem to be rushing to the next event.

Our public dialogue has not lost its reminders. We talk about patriotism at our public events. Monett may well be better than most towns at this, since our veterans groups represent a bigger percentage of civic organizations than bigger cities have.

We even have the lingering legacy of 9-11 in enhanced respect for emergency responders, the frontline casualties in the terrorist attacks. But somehow, the gravitas of more recent events seems to be slipping through our fingertips.

We need a return to flying flags on every porch on special days. We need to stop and soak in the significance, or history rushes by like an endless stream of music videos, all the same.

Coming face to face with honoring a Gold Star mother, seeing an overdue veterans parade and recognizing the meaning of a partially lowered flag dents the speed-induced haze.