I received numerous reader responses to last week's column about Patriot Day.
For those who may not have seen that column or who find the term unfamiliar, in October 2001 the U.S. Congress unanimously approved a joint resolution dubbing September 11, "Patriot Day, the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001."
A year later it was signed into law. Since then, the long name has been shortened to just Patriot Day, which I, and apparently many others, see as a misnomer.
Most respondents agreed with my disdain for the name Patriot Day as not representative of the true significance and purpose of the observance. Many also agreed that it should not be treated as a "holiday" to be celebrated, but rather should be observed soberly.
Several said they dislike the name Patriot Day because they believe it associates 9/11 with the Patriot Act passed shortly thereafter. That law allows the president and law enforcement agencies to override many personal liberties in arresting and detaining people suspected of complicity in terrorism. It applies to citizens as well as immigrants. Readers felt that the power bestowed by the Patriot Act is excessive and, therefore, flies in the face of freedom - what 9/11 was all about.
One respondent proposed we shorten the name to Remembrance Day, rather than Patriot Day - a good suggestion, in my opinion. At least it puts the emphasis on the real purpose - remembering.
However, it leaves out the part about prayer which I see as very important. Those who died were not the only "victims" that day. Their families and friends were victims as well and, in many ways, we all were. We, the living, are the ones who need prayer.
Several readers were pleased that I recognized the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen, African American World War II fighter pilots. I called them "flying aces" but one reader, who is actually the former public relations officer for the Airmen, corrected me.
He reminded me of something we all should know: during that pre-civil-rights era of our history, black pilots were never allowed to achieve "ace" status (5 victories). Few in the WWII military hierarchy wanted to admit there were black war heroes. To ensure they wouldn't have to, black pilots were taken off active duty after downing four enemy planes.
Unfortunately, that officially sanctioned racism is also part of our history. I, for one, am very glad that it is "history" not current events. But I'm also pleased to help make sure it is history remembered, not swept under the rug.
Racism, like the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11, must be remembered for two reasons: to commemorate those who suffered and to ensure that such injustice is never repeated.
Many thanks to all who took the time to respond. If you'd still like to add your thoughts to the conversation, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like to know more about the Tuskegee Airmen, visit their website: www.tuskegeeairmen.com.