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9/11

September 10, 2006

I’ve been thinking a lot about the events of 9/11/1 lately, both
because the five-year anniversary is approaching and because Paul and I
recently watched the new movie World Trade Center
I think about the families that suffered so much loss on that day, and
I think about the incredible loss that our country has experienced in
the years since then–not only the loss of life, but also the loss of opportunity.

Following the collapse of the World Trade Center, Americans became
united behind a common sense of shock, sympathy, and
vulnerability.  Millions of Americans contributed to funds
benefiting the survivors, their rescuers, and the victims’ families;
everyone wanted to know what he or she could do to help.  People
in countries around the world held vigils to honor those who had died
in the attacks, including countries in the Middle East.  The world
was on our side.

Today, the world is NOT on our side.  Increasingly, more and more
of the world despises the United States and its foreign policies, its
arrogant insistence on vengeance.  Iraq is in turmoil, Iran is
pursuing WMDs, and the rest of the world remains in disbelief of the
lies that Americans fell for so easily–that Iraq, and not Osama bin
Laden, should be the primary front in the War on Terror. 

Iraq is not the primary front in the War on Terror.  Iraq did not
even have WMDs.  Iraq was an excuse–for what, I’m not even
sure.  In the meantime, Osama bin Laden is still at large and
Afghanistan is experiencing the same sort of turmoil our presence is
currently fostering in Iraq. 

So what opportunity did we lose?  We lost the opportunity to be a
unifying force in the world, to courageously encourage peace rather
than create more war.  Post 9/11, we were at a place at which the
world would have listened, respected, and followed us had we asked them
to avoid further violence in honor of the thousands that had already
needlessly died in our country and in others, had we said “This is
enough–we must find a way out of the death and destruction and hatred
that besieges the misguided souls who attacked our innocent
civilians.”  Sadly, we did not take that opportunity.

We also lost the opportunity to change our lifestyle in the United
States.  Americans were eager to help in whatever ways they could
after 9/11.  We would have been willing to trade in our SUVs for
Honda Civics and Toyota Prius’s if we were told it would have meant
increased security and independence for our nation.  We would have
been happy to spend our dollars on alternative technology to heat and
cool and light our homes, for we would have felt like patriots in doing
so.  Instead, we were told to go out and spend, to not let these
terrorists shake us from our over-consuming lifestyles, from our
God-given right to drive big cars, to build big homes, and do whatever
the hell it is we please. 

I heard one of the daughters of a 9/11 victim say tonight on TV that
the biggest lesson she learned from her family’s experience after 9/11
was that to be happy, she needed to help others to be happy, that she
needed to be nicer to people than she had been prior to her father’s
death; it was the only thing that made her pain go away.

If only our leaders were as wise as this teenager–if only they had
realized that the only way to combat death, destruction, and sadness is
to smother it with its antithesis:  love. 

Although we squandered an ideal opportunity to take this alternative
path, it is not to late to do so now.  It is our responsibility as
citizens of a democratic country to let our leaders know what we want
and expect of them.  If enough of us speak up, they will have to
listen.

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