Tuesday, September 11, was the anniversary of the most horrific act ever perpetrated upon this nation–on its own soil–in its 200-plus year history.
Eleven years ago Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four planes. Two of the planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the nation’s symbol of economic power.
In Washington, D.C. a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, the citadel of our nation’s defense. The fourth plane did not reach its destination of destruction–probably the capitol building…or the White House–crashing instead into a Pennsylvania farm field after the passengers valiantly fought back against their hijackers to regain control of the plane.
The patriotism that blossomed from the tragedy–the bold showing of American flags, ceremonies honoring soldiers, policemen and firefighters, the surge in Americans joining the country’s armed forces–bolstered our unity, hightened our compassion for our fellow Americans, fostered empathy from other nations and steeled our resolve to bring to justice (or death) those responsible for this hienous act.
Since the tragedy and the years after, the patriotism is still there, but in many respects it has been twisted into a form of jingoism that slams those who are immigrants, the children of immigrants and/or not of the elite one percent.
Such “hyper-patriotism” and negative views of those who come to our shores with different languages, religious beliefs, customs and traditions has filtered into our politics and the current election campaign of both contenders for the nation’s highest office.
The vitriol, half-truths, and “falsehoods” uttered by the opponents of the incumbent president is a far cry from the harmony and unity–regardless of race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation–we all shared in the days following Sept. 11, 2001.
We still honor our soldiers for their bravery–and deservedly so–though they come home to a struggling economy and personal, inner struggles and physical wounds many incurred during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The architect of 911, Osama bin Laden, is dead. Most of Al-Qaeda is on the run and in disarray (though, like a wounded and trapped wolf, it is still a dangerous foe lurking in the shadows of our world).
But economic uncertainty abounds in America, Europe and the Middle East is unstable with several Arab and Muslim countries in the throes of revolution.
The collateral damage of 911 goes beyond the victims and their families.
What took place over a decade ago echoes through every pore of our national being and can be identified as one of the reasons for the world’s unrest.
Much has changed in our nation and the world since September 11.
Some of the change has been good, and some of it bad. What hasn’t changed–fortunately–is the American spirit, which contains infinite energy, vision, hope, faith in the American Dream and confidence in our ability as a nation to do anything we set our minds to.
Therein lies the victory after 9/11. Unity is not visceral. Unity must be our mission as a nation because a nation divided is a nation in decline.