Most of the time, when a politician or commentator talks about 9/11, he or she is not really talking about 9/11.

We use the date to lend urgency to arguments over border security, airport x-rays, drone flights or a wide variety of other issues that have become more relevant to our politics over the last 11 years.

So it’s fitting that on Sept. 11, we should take a break from all the 9/11 talk and reflect on what really happened on 9/11. We should, as they will do at the opening ceremonies of the new 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero in New York City, ask the politicians to take a seat and pay respect to the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the worst act of terrorism in American history.

There will be plenty of time for 9/11 talk on Wednesday. On Tuesday, we should talk about 9/11.

We will likely be reminded that amid all the terrible things that happened on that sunny Tuesday 11 years ago, it occasioned a time of national unity and international sympathy. In the sting of the moment, political differences mattered less than our common vulnerability and sympathy for the victims who died just because they happened to show up for work or get on board an airplane that day.

But it’s also worth remembering how quickly that sense of unity dissolved. By the first anniversary, sharp divisions over policy emerged with disputes over torture, warrantless wiretaps and the war of choice in Iraq. The divided country has stayed divided even after a financial collapse that could have been another call for unity.

Less than 60 days before Election Day in a hotly contested campaign with control of the White House, Congress and state offices up for grabs, there is plenty for us to argue about.

But for one day, it would be good to put the arguments aside and remember those who lost their lives on a day when politics and religion, distorted by extremism, played out in deadly fashion.