}

Thursday, September 13, 2018

September 12

Yesterday, a lot of Americans were posting on social media about September 11. A number of them also posted about “September 12”, the day in which, they say, Americans were kinder and nicer to each other than at any time before or after. Whether it’s true or just perception almost doesn’t matter: It underscores what it means to be human.

I wasn’t in the USA on September 12, 2001, so I have no way of personally knowing how much of what people recall about the time is true or merely believed to be true. However, it’s probable that there’s at least an element of truth to it, and for a simple reason: We’re human beings.

Whenever there’s a major event that affects a number of people, even some sort of family tragedy, people rally together for mutual support. When the event affects an entire community, the same thing happens, just on a much bigger scale. We humans evolved to interact in that way because it increases the odds of survival.

So, it makes perfect sense that the September 12 legends could be true, or largely true, because it’s consistent with the way humans act.

At the same time, we all know that jerks and arseholes were still around that day, but people may not remember that because of another thing we humans do: We minimise pain. This makes evolutionary sense, too, because dwelling on pain makes it difficult to move forward, and life demands that we move forward.

But that’s all about why the legends about September 12 could be true. There’s one final thing about it, and why the legend persists: We all need to believe that things can be better than they are—especially these days—and focusing on one day that was especially good, better by far than the norm, makes us believe that we can have it again.

There’s a dark side, too, though. Many of the September 12 memes I saw yesterday carried a judgemental undercurrent, implying that the reason there’s so much division now, as opposed to the legendary time, is because we choose to be that way. Specifically, we choose to be Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, just to be divisive. While none of the memes I saw explicitly said such a thing (of course they didn’t), it was the clear implication.

I think the truth is the exact opposite: To the extent the legend is true, it was an exception to the rule. Ordinarily, human beings are tribal, and in the modern world that shows up as political party, ideology, or religion—any number of things, actually. The peacefulness after September 11, 2001 was because of the events of that day, nothing more, and the eventual return to normal was about normality itself, and nothing whatsoever to do with September 12. Put another way, the fact that the nirvana didn’t last is a good thing because it meant people were returning to normality, and were moving forward as life demands.

I personally don’t care whether the stories of September 12 are completely true or not, because on some level, and to some extent, they are. What interests me more is how much it demonstrates how we human beings operate, that we rally together when we need it most, and, eventually, we move on. I think both things are worth celebrating on any day.

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