Seventeen years ago, on September 11, America and the rest of the world witnessed what had long been considered to be “the impossible” as inside attackers took control of several domestic flights and took aim at the iconic buildings and hearts of America. We all remember what occurred — the death, the destruction, the terror and the subsequent anger that led the U.S. to declare war against terrorism, Muslims both home and abroad — plunging our nation into yet another “winless war.”
Throughout the day Tuesday, the lives of the many thousands of innocent citizens who died were honored with the sounding of chimes, the reading of names, volunteer actions including blood drives led by the D.C. Muslim community and the packing of meals for seniors who face hunger every day under the guidance of AARP on the National Mall.
In some ways, the U.S. has found ways to be proactive, positive and reverent on this historic day of pain, loss and bravery. But in other ways, it seems apparent that we still have not learned how to counter such brazen acts of hatred. With war hawks dominating Congress and the White House and with an Administration that has opened the door to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, laying down a welcome mat so they and others like them can enter with ease, we have made a turn that is clearly un-American.
9/11 should have taught us that we all lose when we endorse or allow the hatred of those who are different from us, simply because they are different. 9/11 should have helped us understand that while there are some differences between “us” and “the other,” the distinctions are minor when compared to the ways we are similar.
People salute a variety of flags, pray to a host of gods, celebrate holidays and holy days that may be foreign to those outside of their belief system and community, but we all want to be loved and to love another. We all want the best for our children. We’d all prefer living in peace rather than under the specter of war hanging over our heads. We all want a warm, safe place called home where we can rest our heads after a hard day’s work — a room with a view. And when it’s possible, we’d all like to have a few of the nicer things in life — maybe even the occasional opportunity to kick up our feet and do absolutely nothing.
So, what’s so different, so terrible, so frightening about “the other?” Not much. Unless, we make it so. That’s what we should have learned after 9/11. Unfortunately, some would rather point fingers and cast blame instead of cleaning up the mess at home that we’ve created without any help from “the other.”