Nineteen years ago, it was rather clear as the smoke rose and the fear heightened:
America – the land, the people, and the ideals – were under attack.
Eventually, we had a clear enemy. For a moment, we had a clear objective. In an instance, we had unity within our United States. In that time, we had wide-ranging support for our cause, our communities, and our conviction.
And then, much like our mission in the Middle East, things got muddled.
Nineteen years later, the pain of 9/11 still resonates from coast to coast. Yet, the spirit of unity has also been muddled, now long since gone, especially in an election year that has been marred with everything from a deadly pandemic and economic calamities to race riots and protests. Our mantra in the immediate days after 9/11 reminded the world that Americans would not let the terrorists win – that our American Dream, our way of life, and our values would not crumble despite the destruction of buildings and the widespread murder that heinous men inflicted upon thousands. In fact, in the days after the Twin Towers fell, President Bush said to America,
“…In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect… Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America…This is a great country. It’s a great country because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth.”
Almost two decades later, this mantra – for us to unite with dignity, common values, and patriotic respect for one another as well as our proud yet turbulent history — has fallen harder and faster than the resilient Twin Towers did. In their eventual 2001 demise, buildings that survived a fire and a bombing in 1993 symbolize our need for resiliency of character as Americans today.
Sadly, if we lost lives and a sense of security in our homeland on that Tuesday morning in 2001, the attacks did not strengthen our resolve to stay American, support America, and uplift America in our daily civic lives from a long-term perspective.
We have lost the focus that we had in the days after 9/11. If one looks around at the riots and protests (including much of the un-American policy proposals from the left), the political fighting, the cancers on social media, the divisiveness and deceit within the halls of government, and the emerging cultural civil war in America, it has become increasingly clear – even if no one wants to voice it:
The terrorists of 9/11 did not win the day 2 decades ago, but the intent of their mission – to destroy America from its infrastructure on out – is winning the day right now.
Many African-Americans who have never lived in another nation other than the continental United States eschew America as their home, despite history within their families and communities of sacrificing life moments and resources to advance American Ideals to all corners of this nation – even when many within the country were unwilling to extol “…liberty and justice for all…”
Many Americans see conservatives or rural Americans as racial bigots and value vampires sucking the meaning out of the best of our nation through so-called “value signaling”, despite the disproportional amount of rural Americans serving time and again in our nation’s military, sacrificing time, treasure, and talent – and perhaps sadly the ultimate sacrifice – to ensure that all Americans are protected and sovereign regardless of color or creed.
Many Americans see their urban countrymen as rumble-rousing, oft-complaining whiners that do not want to toil, sacrifice, or advance their collective lot in life, despite the documented history and rigid contemporary struggles with issues from redlining of neighborhoods to discrimination in hiring and education and the rise of hate group activities that many of these fellow Americans must endure as obstacles to their pursuit of happiness.
Many Americans scoff at the notion that women in America still face harsh realities related to sexism in the workplace, classrooms, and common spots within American society, despite the realities that powerful men on all sides of politics, business, and entertainment are being exposed for their immoral, criminal, and outdate behaviors towards women of all colors and backgrounds.
Those not seeing these challenges clearly are not given the benefit of the doubt. They are collectively seen as bigots who do not truly want equality in America – a shallow interpretation of misunderstanding and a lazy approach towards teaching opportunities by people who are unwilling or incapable of doing the hard work of bridge-building across our diverse nation. Those not immediately seeing the need for compromise on policies and tactics that still embraces one’s principles view those who reach across aisles and communities as un-American sellouts who do not love this nation – an unwise and unthoughtful approach towards navigating greatness for a nation of over 325 million in a century that has brought us domestic attacks, wars, recessions, racial strife, a pandemic, and multiple epidemics – all within 20 years. Those not remembering that this nation has forged on towards higher levels of being that “…more Perfect Union…” through international tensions and domestic evolutions – looking for peace and quiet instead of peace and justice – disrespect the thousands of Americans that died on September 11, 2001 and in the years afterwards. These Americans – Americans of all colors sacrificing for Americans of all creeds and backgrounds – did not die uplifting the American Way of Life for all of us, only for us to bicker over internet memes, engage in nasty debates online with hollow talking points, or come to hate our nation in some form because we vehemently disagree with Americans from another part of our country.
We should be ashamed, standing on ground that swallowed up the blood of the innocent and the patriotic alike. The goal of the terrorists was never just to take down some buildings; the goal was to take down America and all that makes us uniquely inspiring, strong, powerful, uplifting, and successful. And here we are, destroying our nation with fiery riots, fiery rhetoric, and destructive policies in a way that the planes of that tragic Tuesday morning tried to do – and mostly failed to do…perhaps until now.
In this painful year and on this painful anniversary, we must be ever vigilant to regain the highest tenets of what those demonic men attempted to take from us through their fateful actions. In 2020 – perhaps more than any other year since 2001 – it is highly important for us to not allow our nation’s foundation to become rubble because of to the destruction caused by our own hands. We rebuilt our economy and New York after the Twin Towers attacks. In the same spirit – and in a manner that contravenes the work of America’s foes from that day forward – we must rebuild the overarching pride, standards for grace and understanding, and craving for growth and proper civic evolution that makes America what we are and should be for years to come. Our nation remained united because we did this in the shadows of our darkest days in 2001; our nation is counting on us to do the same to survive this turbulent moment now.