It almost seems strange to me to attempt a 9/11-themed post. I never lived in New York or Washington, and didn’t lose anyone I know or love. Yet somehow, that day and its repercussions has imprinted on my psyche so firmly as to compel me to write something.
In my mind, the most tragic outcome of these events (second to the 2,996 lives lost) was the way in which it exacerbated the many failings and unresolved tensions in our society. Some people refer to that day as the day we lost our innocence, but it seems more appropriate to label it the day we lost our ignorance. We had a few decades of global supremacy, and a booming economy to match. Nothing and no one could ever bring us down (or so we thought). However, instead of learning from that day, I fear that what we have done has served only to perpetuate more tragedy and less well-being.
Rather than looking to propagate tolerance and goodwill to all, we have entered two wars that have done nothing but spawn chaos and harm the well-being of the very people who were supposed to be defended by these conflicts. In our quest for the ever-elusive security, we lost sight of what it means to be safe and free. We bellowed that those who attacked us hated us for our freedom, yet I daresay that there’s not much of that left to resent.
Now, we have wreaked havoc all over the world, leaving tens of thousands of dead and many more injured. We live constantly surrounded by the military-industrial-police complex, yet are no more safe than we were on September 10, 2001. Everything we do and think can be considered suspicious, and untold sums of money have been spent in pursuit of an impossible level of security. The very notion of true dissent is labeled unpatriotic or even traitorous in some circles. We are more divided and alienated than ever before.
In the wake of the attacks in Norway this summer, the mayor of Oslo responded in such a way that would have served us well 10 years ago. Instead of calling for stronger security and military action, he said, “I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.”
That day and its aftermath have destroyed our sense of community, interpersonal trust, justice, and courage; all things we as Americans prided ourselves on. May we learn to live with respect and peace, not conflict and aggression.