Protester: 9/11 program exploited deaths of victims

Jamie Roux

On September 8, 2001, I lost track of time while swimming in Casco Bay. I showed up two hours late for lunch with my dad. He was embarking on a new chapter in his life. We both knew that we wouldn’t see each other for a while, and I could tell this made him sad.

After lunch, my father dropped me off at a friend’s house, and I hugged him for the last time across the center console of a car. A lawyer, musician, outdoorsman and proud veteran with a legendary sense of humor, he boarded a plane three days later, on September 11, 2001.

Terrorists hijacked the plane, cut his life short and were responsible for the deaths of many innocent people and heroic first responders. All of America suffered a loss that day, but those of us for whom the loss was the most personal may experience September 11 each year differently from our fellow Americans.

On September 11, 2015, I was arrested for speaking up during a public 9/11 remembrance in Freeport. I was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and thrown in jail. I have since been painted in the news and on social media in a way that is not who I am.

I am a pacifist and a patriot. I most love about America the very things that the terrorists hate: our diversity; our freedoms of religion, speech and association; our protections and tolerance for ethnic and religious minorities and of different lifestyles.

Many other countries offer those same protections, some even more zealously and successfully than the United States, but they are not targets of such hatred and so many terrorist attacks. To me, this is the product of a foreign policy of force and hubris more than of moral leadership.

I wish that the suffering wrought by the terrorists had ended in 2001. After September 11, we rushed to invade Iraq before getting conclusive, reliable evidence of weapons of mass destruction. I believe the invasion was out of a need of some for a post-9/11 “win” in the Middle East, to protect our access to oil and to enforce colonially imposed national boundaries.

These polices are contrary to the exceptional principles upon which our country was founded. They have not worked, have led to the death and dislocation of millions of people and have caused many to hate us. Using September 11 as a justification for an unnecessary war, torture, drone strikes and civilian casualties that followed compounds my grief and is wrong-minded and counterproductive.

On September 11, 2015, I went to the Freeport Fire Station for the end of a 9/11 remembrance ceremony, which I had seen publicized on Facebook. I expected to see a “display of interesting Freeport Flag Ladies memorabilia and refreshments.” I saw instead a program of military force.

The guest speaker I saw, dressed in his military uniform, spoke about the policies of Ronald Reagan. I saw no representation of peaceful views. To me, the ceremony was a painful example of my father’s murder being exploited to advance partisan, political and disturbing policies.

I reacted to what I saw as the conduct of some to exploit 9/11 victims, promoting an aggressive foreign policy that is contrary to my most core values and that I believe can only lead to more murder and mayhem, as well as to a deeply troubling cultural ideology that celebrates and rewards such aggression.

I admire and have nothing but gratitude for the brave first responders, many of them police, who risked and sacrificed so much on September 11 and after. But I am disillusioned that the quote of local police in one newspaper did not accurately portray my peaceable entry into the ceremony or the way I was forcibly removed.

I respect the rights of all at the ceremony to express their views in the right setting. I am not like the abortion clinic protesters whose violent language is intended to keep people from exercising their constitutional rights (although I would like the same speech protections they get).

I am disturbed, however, that this public event, on public property, with forced student attendance, presented only one side and promoted certain political views, rather than simply remembering the lives and mourning the loss of so many innocents.

America’s strength is in its openness and freedoms. We do not need to beat the countries, or individuals, we disagree with into submission. If we become complacent with war and scared to act peacefully, we will continue to live in terror.

Jamie Roux grew up in Freeport and is now a resident of Westbrook.

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