"They crashed the planes and changed the rules." -- GrooveLily, Live Through This (Are We There Yet?), Are We There Yet?. QMR, 2003
Nine years ago the world changed. You may take that as an overstatement, or, conversely, as overly simple. But wherever you lived at the time, a shift in perspective occurred. That shift was all the more dramatic and palpable if you were a U.S. citizen. I don't want to dwell on the attacks themselves. But I do want to take some time to recall what happened in the wake of that dreadful event. Forget -- if you can, even if for only for a moment -- just forget how you feel about the war in Iraq, conspiracy theories, and Republican versus Democrat (or any other "them versus us" political division). Recall, instead, the great communal sense that slowly seeped into our national fiber even as the weight of sorrow and shock seemed all too powerful and crushing. Remember neighbor comforting neighbor, even in cases where those neighbors had not known each other very well prior to that morning. Remember the outpouring of support and sympathy from around the world. And remember that shared conviction that, although we would never forget the tragedy, we would recover ... grow stronger ... and become ever more connected as a nation.
Are we there yet?
Now, I know many terrible and stupid things also occurred in the wake of 9-11. To suggest otherwise would be naive. And I would never suggest that we should simply gloss over the darker side of our all too human nature. It is my belief, however, that we can recover even from the damage we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves. So the cases of post-911 ignorance and bigotry are not the focus of my post today. They would only serve to drag us back down to the things I asked you forget in my second paragraph. And what is my focus? What's the point of one more 9-11 post on a blog? Well, I wanted to provide something a little different on this solemn anniversary. You see, in my opinion, Americans were offered a choice nine years ago. We had a chance to abandon partisan politics and all the other petty things that keep us from truly working together. We saw a glimpse of the society we could have, one that celebrated differences instead of drawing lines. A nation of people united by a common desire to be their very best, and give their very best. That desire trumped pain, loss, and even differences in ethnicity, gender, politics, religion, etc. Are we there yet?
The short and sad answer is, "No." When I visited this line of thought in 2008, our nation was in the midst of a difficult election season and it seemed that every day featured a new example of just how far we have fallen from that vision of post 9-11 unity.
Two years later and the candidates have changed, but the unravelling continues.
There are angry arguments about who is a true patriot, who is "American enough," and who deserves to be in this country. Although these are not new arguments, I have a hard time imagining the Founding Fathers spewing the kind of venom that Beck, Limbaugh, and Fox News exchange with Olbermann, Maddow, and MSNBC. And speaking of venom, have you had your fill of the hate-filled rhetoric and fear-mongering that seems to be regularly hurled between members of differing faith tribes? I know I have.
But here is some good news: The door that opened in the aftermath of 9-11 has not yet closed. We can still achieve a truly united, yet beautifully diverse, nation. A nation not necessarily blessed by this, that, or the other god, but blessed by its citizens and their actions. Can we get there? You tell me.