Another anniversary of 9/11/01 has come and is nearly gone – only a couple hours left for me. In New York City and D.C. and even that field in Pennsylvania the 7th anniversary is gone already. So, I had predicted that the 5th anniversary would be a leap over the blockade of honesty that surrounds that horrific day. But no, I had overestimated the courage of the American People. Not the big courage. The courage to run into a collapsing skyscraper to save strangers. I don’t mean the courage to band together with fellow citizens to rush armed assailants, knowing it would mean death. No, we have that courage. When the chips are down and we are backed in a corner we can do some incredibly courageous things. I am talking about the little courage – the personal courage to face demons inside all of us. That is what we lack. For many it might be alcoholism or drug addiction. For others it might be depression or anger or abuse. Gambling, greed, cruelty are other personal shortcomings that hobble the best of us. It takes a personal courage to face these weaknesses within each of us. Yet, collectively there is a personal weakness that we all struggle alone and in silence. We can forget it is there for a while, sometimes for a long while. But it is still there and it comes back to haunt us. I am reminded of it every anniversary of 9/11/01. If we don’t face it, like the alcoholic or the depressed, it will consume us. We must face the hard truth. We must, each of us, come to accept the fact that we are complicit and in many ways responsible for the deaths, the murders of September 11, 2001.
Maybe this is the year. Perhaps now we can come to admit that our foreign meddling, our global stagger, our governmental hubris and citizen ignorance sowed the seeds of that horrible day. Of course I am not diminishing the role of those hijackers or the governments that supported and funded them. They made the decision to do this. And what they did was wrong. But that sort of fatal commitment to something isn’t born of thin air. It is nourished with foul resentment and rage. They don’t hate us because we are free. They don’t want to take our liberties as the talking heads like to purport. They hate us because we won’t allow them to be free. They hate us because we prop up their governments which hold these people face down in the dirt. We got richer and richer and they could only watch us get from the outside.
For a long time, I wouldn’t accept responsibility either. I used to say that it was my government who did those horrible things. Not me. I care about poor people the world over. I worked with them. I advocated for them. I raised funds for projects to support them. I didn’t help hinder them. I didn’t hold them down. My government might have but I didn’t. Those are the things I used to say. I was in denial. Just like the smack addict or the gambler. I can quit anytime. It wasn’t my fault. But I was wrong.
We are all to blame. We can not live in this democracy, flawed horribly though it may be, and cry “not me!” We all signed off on acts that limited our freedom. We all stuck our heads in the sand, when we knew we smelled a rat. We all decided we wouldn’t criticize the government because there was a war on, and we wanted to appear unified. We all felt a moment when we saw the crowd walking the wrong way, thought about saying something, thought about yelling for them to stop, thought about walking the right way alone. But we didn’t. We turned and walked lockstep with the crowd in the wrong direction and even convinced ourselves it was the right direction. We all did it. Some faster than others. Some in small steps. But we all did it. Each time we held our tongue. Or looked the other way. We all did something, even when we did nothing. For most of us, we just didn’t know that there was a whole world of people out there that hate us for the things we’ve done on their soil. Ignorance is no excuse – not in a democracy. Not in America where, even after our civil liberties have been whittled away, we are still free enough to tell a representative, or even a President that he or she is wrong and we will not be a part of it. We are all a part of that horrible day.
Both major parties put a hold on the politics today in reverence to the anniversary. I say today, this day more than any other perhaps, politics, government, democracy needs to be alive and active. I race to post this before midnight because I want to be political today. I want to voice my opinion about our society and our government today, especially. The people should stand at Ground Zero today and demand a better government – a government of the people – not for the sheeple. We must stand there and grab a leader by the neck and stick his or her nose in it and say look what we did. Look what we all did. Now, maybe after seven years, maybe now we can forgive ourselves and move on. If we learn from it and work to make sure it never happens again, than maybe we will even be able to heal from it. But it is not easy. It is one step at a time, day after day. And it starts with taking our country back. It starts with making sure we are informed about what our government does on our behalf, because we reap the rewards and the dire consequences of their actions. Deservedly so. That is the price of democracy. No more can you say “not me”. We need to kick out big business and profiteers. We need to stop allowing our government to keep us stupid. We need to stop keeping ourselves stupid. Turn off Fox and CNN and turn on C-Span or better yet, drive to your capitol and tell them in person what you want them to do. We can’t keep bombing poor nations thinking that will stop them from hating us. We must stop unfair practices around the globe. We do not deserve any sweeter deal than any other country. We need to stop trying to control everything. We must focus on putting our own house in order. We must demand this from our elected leaders. We can not sit back and be passive peasants anymore. We must be a nation of self-ruled men and women, intelligent and strong. Because we have the power and the courage to make this nation strong again. We have the values to allow the rest of the world to be strong too. Then we’ve kept our promise to ourself and the world. America is a place for all. Not just a few. But America is our home and our hope. We can’t be strutting around the world imposing our dominance wherever we like. We can’t take what we want and leave people wasted in our wake. That is not the noble notion of America. Let’s take our country back.