Thanks to my friend John Fea, historian at Messiah College, for a thoughtful post that attempts to do what few have done: connect 9/11 to the Labor Day weekend just past. Fea articulates that the heroism that we saw was less related to patriotism than it was to the sense of calling and vocation among those first responders. Here is a taste:
I tell my students that there are no heroes in history. We are all flawed human beings–sinners in need of redemption. Because of this theological belief we should not be surprised when people disappoint us. (I also tell my students that there are no villains in history–all of us are created in God’s image and thus have dignity and worth). But this does not mean that people in the course of human history have not performed heroic acts.
The events of September 11th have taught me that men and women act heroically when they do what they are called to do. The public school teacher who faithfully meets his or her classroom every day for thirty or forty years is doing something heroic. The scholar who advances our understanding of the world is doing something heroic. The minister who faithfully serves God in the place where he or she has been called is doing something heroic. The general contractor who uses his or her gifts to construct a house is doing something heroic. And even the work of the pile-man can be heroic when it is done in service to God and others.
In this last week there have been dozens and dozens of good articles, written by this or that pundit, discussing the meaning of September 11th. But few of them have made any attempt to connect Labor Day, which we celebrated earlier this week, with the heroism of the day we will commemorate tomorrow. September 11th has just as much to teach us about calling and vocation as it does about national pride, patriotism, and Islamic terrorists.
You can read the rest here, including Fea’s connection of this to Bruce Springsteen’s recent tribute album. I think Fea makes some interesting points. Yes, there was a lot of patriotism on display in the days that followed 9/11, but I think that the immediate response was based on something different. We didn’t yet know what exactly was behind the attacks. We were in a state of shock, and reacting from that. Later, once we knew for sure that it was a choreographed attack on our country, patriotism rose. Never really thought about it in quite this way, so this piece helped me to better identify what I had felt was missing for some time.