It seems odd to be talking about the 10th “anniversary” of 9/11, because we have no real closure. Each of us harbors a queasy feeling at the base of our being that says the event is not over.
We know that despite the trillions of dollars that have gone into national defense, security systems, wars and reparations, on any given Sunday, not only Sunday, September 11, 2011, or on any day for that matter, something can happen that is even more horrific.
9/11 announced the existence of new global realities, which Americans had not noticed. But this changed world dropped into our living rooms on 9/11. The 10 years since have been our coping with the healing process. The fear mongers have used this opportunity to threaten our liberties in ways we do not even yet imagine.
But America was forged out of the chaos when “things were a mess.” Every generation has faced its defining mess, and its own need for regeneration. The most obvious ones have been wars, but financial recessions and depressions have their own messy characteristics, as have the fights for rights by so many of our citizens. It is up to us to see our country through the mess.
The instinct of many has been to grasp for fundamentalism, both religious and political, with the hope they could put things back the way they were. And they have been willing to give up a lot to do that. The reality is that the only way out is through, and we need to work as hard as our fathers and mothers to keep the essence of what has been earned with great sacrifice throughout the history of the United States.
There is a force at work in the world. Call it the urge to freedom for the human spirit. The United States of America has long been an embodiment of the success of that force, and most Americans have equally assumed that it was a done deal. We were wrong! We have been proud of our national accomplishments. We did not notice that most of mankind does not enjoy anything near our level of freedom. We thought of that as their problem.
At the same time, others have perceived that the United States has pursued international policies that have aided those who would prevent their countrymen from realizing the potential of that same human spirit of freedom. As such, the United States has been an impediment to those natural goals for many others in the world.
We need only refer to the “Arab Spring” to know that the human spirit is ultimately indomitable, and inconsistent American policies may cause us more harm than good in the perceptions and behaviors of the rest of the world.
It seems to me that what 9/11 tells us emphatically is that human kind must gradually fuse into one unity—perhaps not a perfect one, but one with respect for one another’s differences. The American Founding Fathers knew that viscerally, adopting the Latin phrase “E Pluribus Unum” as our national motto. It means “From Many, One.”
We have seen the power of that simple idea as it has evolved in North America over the past 400 years. A country filled with different perspectives of race, religion, political philosophy, financial skills, national origins and cultural backgrounds shows that we have the power to shape our own destiny. The United States has evolved because of the power of our Diversity–adopting good ideas from any group, while rejecting bad ideas that sometimes arise within every group.
Our result has brought prosperity to a vast number of Americans, while leaving much of the rest of the world living without electricity. We will need to change our perspective on mankind as a whole if our grandchildren will live in peace.
9/11 and the queasiness we still feel about what may come next proves that our destiny and the destiny of mankind are irrevocably linked. If there is a nod we must give to the day, let it be that it points to that inevitable link.