When the disparate University of Arkansas College Republicans and Young Democrats united to plan a Sept. 11 memorial service, they were reflecting the sentiments of their parties' presidential nominees.
Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama said Saturday they will appear jointly at Ground Zero tomorrow to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. In a prepared statement, the two nominees recognized the remarkable national unity that emerged in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy and expressed the desire for a renewal of that unity.
While the two UA student groups ultimately canceled the planned memorial service because of weather concerns, the underlying good faith effort of these groups to actively commemorate a day that significantly altered the political and military course of the U.S. is, in itself, commendable.
Commendable, too, are the sentiments expressed by McCain and Obama - however politically expedient those sentiments may be.
For, however clich non-partisan rhetoric might sound (and it frequently does sound clich, whether it comes from the figureheads of the two major U.S. parties or from the civically minded members of the local student chapters of those parties), the sobering facts of Sept. 11 are deserving of remembrance.
When more than 3,000 Union soldiers and nearly 5,000 Confederates died in the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln said, "The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."
When nearly 3,000 people were killed because terrorists crashed passenger airplanes into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon, U.S. public sentiment echoed Lincoln's words. We vowed never to forget.
Today, groups devoted to helping the families of Sept. 11 victims are struggling financially because "the public at large really does think why haven't people moved on," according to the director of one such group as quoted in an article from the Associated Press.
Have we moved on? If so, what have we moved on to?
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure," Lincoln said in that same Gettysburg Address.
And so we are. The war in Iraq was not the only war to ensue after the Sept. 11 attacks. Internal divisions over that war and the other issues that face the nation - the economy, illegal immigration and global warming, among others - quickly embroiled U.S. politicians and citizens in their own civil war of partisan politics. Those same politicians and citizens who rallied behind the heroes of Sept. 11 reverted to petty criticisms of each other's policies and personal characteristics.
But, tomorrow, neither the McCain campaign nor the Obama campaign will run television advertising critical of the other. Tomorrow, members of the group MyGoodDeed, a nonprofit group created "to remember and rekindle the remarkable spirit of unity that existed in our nation in the days following Sept. 11," will perform acts of community service "to pay tribute to the many who aided in the rescue and recovery efforts." Tomorrow, we can, too. Let's.