The Importance of Memory

One of the main issues I had with this article was Rieff’s view towards memory. In a small way, I can understand his opinion on forgetting, how it does seem practical. If people could forget the events of September 11th, then they could let go of the pain and the fear that come along with the memories. If Oskar could just forget, then perhaps he could sleep at night, he could stop inventing and he could stop giving himself bruises. But in every other way, it seems utterly preposterous that anyone should suggest that 9/11 is an event that must eventually be forgotten. Maybe my opinion is a product of the times that we live in, a time when, as Riess points out, people call out for everyone to remember as almost a battle cry.  But it seems like remembering and coping with those painful memories is the least we can do in honor of those who lost their lives, and of the families who have to live with the emptiness caused by the death of a loved one. Just take a look at Oskar Schell’s life (who, though he is a fictional character, could represent many children who lost a parent that day). Despite our opinions about Oskar and his precocious nature, it’s easy to see he had a very close, loving relationship with his father. It seems terribly insensitive to consign the memory of Thomas Schell and his son’s love for him to be forgotten within a short generation. We should take the old adage “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it” to heart, instead of labeling it trite, because it could be helpful in the same way Rieff suggests forgetting is helpful. If we learn from the memories of September 11th, and remember that it is painful and joyless to live in fear and anger, then we can live and peace and still pay respects to those who died on that day and the families that still miss them.