After the Paris terror attacks, the world was shaken — yet again. For many, it was not only the 130 people killed, it was a flashback to attacks closer to home. 9/11, the London Underground bombings, the Boston Marathon; they have all left their mark on us, but it is up to us both as Americans and as humans to decided what that mark will look like.
The world is a dangerous place. Almost everyone knows someone who either was injured or killed by terrorism or knows someone who has been deployed to fight it. Not just terrorism, but domestic threats like school and movie theatre shootings have become all too common. This is the world I have grown up in. A world where we are shocked by the depravity of humanity but are rarely surprised by it.
The question is: who is it going to make us?
Security is the buzzword of the day and we have a lot of it. Sometime so much it gets us into trouble. Between all the full body scanners, fingerprinting, video cameras, facial recognition, NSA data collection, CIA, FBI, Homeland Security… We have a lot of security. But does it keep us safe? Sometimes.
The question is: what are we going to do about it?
America is at a crossroads, one that we have been at many times before, where we have to ask “What kind of a country are we?” Not are we Republican and Democrat, but are we the kind of people to “play it safe?” Or are we going to be the “shining city on a hill?”
Today the political rhetoric is toxic. We spend more time trying to discredit the people speaking than the ideas presented.
Is this the America of today?
Should we be resigned to sacrificing the essence of what we stood for so long because “the world changed after 9/11?”
Today we have leaders and candidates proposing special ID’s for Muslims in the US.
Others call for mobilizing the National Guard to “stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can.”
For the first time in my life, I have heard the internment of US citizens during WWII referenced as a positive, not the atrocity it was.
Is this who America is? We are more than willing to attack terror from afar but the mere possibility that one may try cross the ocean to where we are strongest terrifies us.
That is not the America that I know.
The America I know is full of hope. I think Sgt. “Buster” Kilrain in the movie Gettysburg said it well, “What I’m fighting for is to prove I’m a better man than the others. There’s many a man worse than me, and some better. But I don’t think race or country matters a damn. What matters is justice. And that’s why I’m here. I’ll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved.”
Or as the Founding Fathers put it: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
America is a nation based on ideas. Ideas that are timeless, as long as they are held.
The question is: does America still believe?
If the answer is no, then we have become just another superpower trying to maintain “control” in a changing world. Security becomes the master issue. Be warned, it is a harsh taskmaster. As Ben Franklin, put it: “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”
I still believe in the America that opposed tyranny before we were a country.
An America that still cares about the injustice in the world and is willing to fight to end it.
The question now is not only do we love our country enough to protect it, but do we love it enough to share it?
“Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?” – George Washington, Farewell address