Updated: Sep 10, 2021
As we approach the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, I’ve had numerous friends tell me they want the America we saw on the day after the attacks. On Sept. 12, this country was united in a way we haven’t seen since World War II, some would claim. Then, discussion inevitably turns toward the current state of affairs, and how we seem to be on the brink of a second Civil War.
While I clearly understand that way of thinking, I gently try to suggest a quick survey of our day-to-day conversations will show we are much closer to the emotions of Sept. 12 than we suppose. Just think about how many daily interactions you have with other people. I’d argue that almost every one is a cordial, peaceful and civil display of humanity.
The anger, hate and division is more like 9/11. Those interactions are NOT the norm – they are the exception. When I look around, I can’t ignore the problems and discourse we have, that would be awfully naive. However, what I also see are neighbors helping each other, friends caring for one another and most people just wanting to make a better life for themselves and their families. I see frustration and I see hope.
Sept. 11 was a tragic day; Sept. 12 was a day of unity and healing. Now, if you look at the history of this country, you’ll see this dichotomy in constant play.
America has always told two stories, and there has always been a clash of American ideals.
It’s the promise of what we can be versus the disappointment of who we have been. The distance between those two sometimes seems as wide as our Grand Canyon, but the reality is we are much closer to achieving our ideals than falling into the dystopian abyss.
This country provides opportunities that no other place in the world does, or ever has. It also has a dark past that would have Lady Liberty hang her head in shame. Through it all, though, this country is that shining light on the hill. It has room for everyone who wants to help make this country meet its ideals. It was also a country that was founded on dissent and should allow those voices to be heard.
It’s those two contrasts that make us who we are. We are the beautiful sounds of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.” We are also the lamenting voices of Woody Guthrie who wrote, “This Land Is Your Land” as a retort to Berlin’s song.
So, as we approach the anniversary and we all reflect on the events that transpired on that day and the days that followed, I hope that you continue to make this country a better place for us all through your love, your compassion, your genuineness and your honesty.
“From every mountain top, let freedom ring.”