September 14, 2001

light one candle?

Apparently there is a movement afoot to organize a nationwide candlelight vigil
tonight at 7 PM. The email I got about it claims this will "show the world that
Americans are strong and united", which left me a little confused. United, yes,
but I don't quite see how lighting candles shows strength. The rest of the world
is certainly watching to see our official response to the tragedy, and I hope they
are also seeing Americans working together toward a common goal, but if the
candle-lighting shows them anything, it will only be that we are not quite bright
enough to coordinate across time zones.

That said, I do think the vigil is a good idea, but how it shows us to ourselves
rather than how it displays us to the rest of the world. If it gives us a sense of
unity, or being part of a greater whole, that will strengthen us for whatever
comes next, and for dealing with the grief of what has already happened. And I'm
sure someone will choreograph a display a Jews and Moslems, Christians and
Buddhists and Hindus all standing together in reverence that will end up being
televised -- and maybe that will show the world something about us.

A candle -- flame -- is a talisman of spirit and memory. Like the Ner Tamid, the
eternal light that is always kept burning in every synagogue, the flame will stand
for remembrance and reverence. A whole nation burning candles is a powerful symbol
of mingled hope and grief and unity. We do need that.

Peter Yarrow's Chanukah song says it better than I can:

Light one candle for the strength that we need

to never became our own foe.

Light one candle for those who are suffering

pain we lived so long ago.

Light one candle for all we believe in

that anger won't tear us apart.

And light one candle to bring us together

with peace as the song in our hearts.

What is the memory that's valued so highly

that we keep it alive in that flame?

What's the commitment for those who have died,

when we cry out they have not died in vain?

We have come this far always believing that

justice would somehow prevail.

This is the burden, this is the promise,

This is why we will not fail.

Posted by dichroic at September 14, 2001 04:59 PM
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