Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I did not forget that today was the anniversary of 9/11, I just wasn't sure how, if at all, I wanted to commemerate. This is a tough anniversary to me and maybe it's because to be honest, my life did not change a whole lot after 9/11. That's not to say that things aren't very different now than they were then, but there was no immediate life change for me. There wasn't a switch flipped. I didn't go out and buy a flag, I didn't put a ribbon on my car, I didn't join the military. I continued to go to class and lived my life. And maybe that sounds cold and selfish, but my experience was not yours and yours was certainly not mine and that's what makes commemerating today so tricky.

In 2001, I was a freshman in college and 9/11 was a regular Tuesday morning, which meant an 8:30 class. I had gotten up late and I got to my econ class about 2 minutes late, with my shoes and a hair brush in my hand. I looked at the chalk board and at the professor who was uncharacteristically unanimated. On the board was written the phrase, "don't let the bastards shut us down."

At that point, I had no idea what was going on. I went to a very politically active college and I assumed that it had something to do with on campus politics. Boy was I ever wrong. I sat, with all my classmates and watched the news. I went to peer meetings and I was around people who's lives were profoundly changed by those terrorist attacks. But my life stayed the same. We continued with our classes as regular, we continued to do what we had to do. There were tense moments because we were in Los Angeles, but life was the same. I thankfully didn't know anyone who was in those towers, or anyone in that state for that matter. I did have one cousin in the military and I am quite thankful to say that he is now home, safe and has been honorably discharged from the military. To be honest, 9/11 was a long way away from me and it took a while for the ripples of it to reach me.

For me, 9/11 ended up being a lesson in compassion and tolerance. I felt for all those in New York and Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania and all the families missing fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and all those who they lost. I also have tried to grow as a person in my understanding of other cultures. I think in many ways, 9/11 brought out a negative undertone in American culture- that even though we are the "melting pot" of countries, we're all too capable of pointing out traitors simply by their appearance or by their religion.

Do not mistake my tolerance of others for acceptance of the things that people have done. I will never understand how anyone can hate another person or culture or society so much that they would orchestrate mass murder. I will never understand how someone would be willing to give up their life to hurt others. I hope I never understand it, because that hatred comes from a place I never want to see. But I also do not understand how those tragedies give us license to treat others badly. If there was ever a chance for us to show the great moral base that our government pretends to have, it would've been then. We didn't turn the other cheek, we punched back and we punched hard. And I may be in the minority on this, but I disagree with what we've done since 9/11.

I am disgusted by how our lust and thirst for oil has played a big role in our actions. I am upset how we've let 9/11 roll into Iraq, pretending as if they are one and the same. I hate that we've lost sight of what we were fighting for in the first place and I hate even more that there's no end in sight either.

Generally I do like to find optimism in the midst of bad situations. I'm sure that many of you would be quick to site the rise in patriotism, but that's not what I'd like to remember from 9/11. I'd like to remember how for those first few weeks, maybe even months, we belonged to each other again. We had a common pain, we had a common emotion and we had a common experience. I want to reflect back on 9/11 as a time when we suffered a serious blow and when we rose above it. I hope that at some point we can look back and realize how we could've responded other than with wars on multiple fronts, but I am also realistic enough to know that that is unlikely.

9/11 changed the course of history. It changed the hearts of many many Americans and non-Americans alike. It created a chaos that now 6 years later has not been settled. I hope that it also gave us wisdom and diplomacy so that in the future we can make changes and we can be a melting pot of people who look for kindness and compassion in others, rather than a desire for revenge and vigilante justice.

I implore you once more before I end that you do not mistake my emotions as being non-regretful or non-compassionate, because it couldn't be more of the opposite, but I think there is more to this anniversary than just those who perished in the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania and I don't want us to forget the rest of it either.


Liz said...

If you're in the minority then I'm right there with you