A New Day Shines – The Tower, September 10 2010
Publicly this weekend, vigils, memorials, and the reading of names will all mark the tragic
events of September 11, 2001. Internally, we will remember where we were when we heard the news. We will recall that fear striking right to the core overwhelming us. For many Americans, the important question will be, “How are you remembering September 11, 2001?”
Almost a decade after the attacks, though it is right and a duty to remember the lives lost, the national conversation needs to transform. The question now must be, “How are we acting in the wake of tragedy to change the world for the better?”
Unfortunately, as the years have passed, our words and our deeds still contain the fear of 9-11. This is not a fear based in prudence. It is a fear based in irrationality and intolerance.
We are well aware of the Patriot Act and its attack on civil liberties. The sins of torture and extrajudicial assassinations have become acceptable to far too many Americans. With barely enough time to assess the situation and analyze all the intelligence coming in, the Bush administration proceeded to invade Afghanistan, and only a few years later, Iraq.
Domestically, the worst legacy of 9-11 is the intolerance direct towards our Muslim brothers and sisters that continues to grow even today. Americans, either out of ignorance or out of malice, perpetually associate the hijackers of 9-11 with Islam in general.
These are the legacies of America’s response to 9-11 in the past decade. As we enter into a new decade however, we are presented with the grand opportunity to change that legacy.
Imagine for a moment, if America reached out to the people of Afghanistan with bread and books, instead of bombs. A generation in that country utterly opposed to us today would instead be filled with gratitude.
Imagine for a moment, if America sought to protect the very principles on which the nation is founded, instead of shedding liberty for false security. America would have retained its moral authority on the international stage to call for human rights and an end to genocide and war.
Imagine for a moment, if America embraced Islam wholeheartedly as one of the many faith traditions based in love present in the nation. There would be no horrifying national debate over Qur’an binning or opposition to religious liberty.
Ultimately, from the ashes and ruins of 9-11, we must project an image of peace and overwhelming love, instead of violence and hate. The only way forward is through constructive actions rooted not in temporary political trends or irrational fears, but instead in fundamental and timeless virtues on which America is founded. If we, as a nation, continue to respond to 9-11 with violence, we run the risk of more violence being committed against us.
While we remember the lives of the 3,000 people killed by fundamentalists nine years ago, let us also recommit to seeking the common good. Let us respond to the question, “How are we acting in the wake of tragedy to change the world for the better?” with a resounding chorus of varying responses. Only then will we truly honor those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.