After 9/11 : We’re sick but we can fix this
THE Relationship Blog
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30 years ago, I was sitting in school learning about the United States. Being the daughter of immigrants who fled their homeland due to oppressive communism, the love of our adopted country was rabid in my family. So, learning about how this great country became a great country was vital to my existence. Year after year in school, children learn layer upon layer of history. At first, you learn the basics, Columbus, the American Revolution, the Civil War then a brief mention of the big wars. As you get older, the curriculum is lined with the juicy interworking of government and intrigue. The pilgrims weren’t oppressed; they were tossed out for being separatists who wished to live away from ‘non-saints’ and purge their sinful ways. What really spurred the Revolution? Why assassinate Lincoln? But most importantly, why did the United States need so much encouragement to join the World Wars?
It took the sinking of the Lusitania and having German subs and U boats parked outside of New York to enter World War I and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to enter World War II. A bit drastic, no? Prior to this, our allies and other world powers are blowing each other up but as a country we insisted that that was their problem, not ours. History has proven time and again that like the original pilgrims, Americans are inherently isolationists. If it ain’t happening here, we don’t care. We have enjoyed this distance from the masses for decades; only getting involved when provoked. We are considered the greatest of the world powers and instead of wielding this power responsibly we have sat back and let our reputation speak for itself. And yet, historically, our country is also considered to be imperialistic. Regime change and invading much weaker countries is not something new to us. But we have always done this to further our agenda. Much like a parent who ignores their children until they interfere with their plans, the punishment we dole out has always been severe and swift.
So 10 years ago, our country suffered a devastating blow. We were attacked on our own turf. We were rudely woken from this dream that we were untouchable and invincible. Not only were we violated on our own land, they attacked two places that as Americans we hold sacred; Washington and New York. Washington, named after one of our fore fathers, the seat of our government and most importantly, our defense, and New York, the bad-ass part of our country’s personality and the seat of our financial dominance over the world were rocked with bombs in the shape of airplanes filled with our own people. These terrorists took something that as Americans we take for granted and used them to destroy the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. We could no longer pretend we were alone on this giant blue ball. We became aware of the hatred that the world had for Americans and that the shroud of democracy and freedom could be pierced by a fanatical sociopath. We lost our innocence as a nation and a people.
Our reaction to this was predictable. When human beings are attacked we resort to our most primitive state: fight or flight. The sympathetic and parasympathetic response to shock is always the same; I will either hide or kick some ass. Our country went into shock. For a brief moment we united as never before. Under the mantel of pain and disbelief, Republicans and Democrats shook hands and agreed to work as one for the good of the country. For a moment we put our differences aside; all races and creed, (minus Islam because we generalized to all) linked arms to fight the bad guys. One nation under God actually meant something, for a moment. We were at war.
10 years later, as the euphoria of the adrenaline from the shock of the attacks has dissipated, we are left with only the Post Traumatic Stress of the attack. We have whole sections of society at the ready for the next wave of attacks. These same people see everyone as the bad guy that does not look or sound or share their beliefs. Different is bad. Then there are those whose apathy is palpable. Our country is divided. We have people who want to return to the good old days of the 50s. They think of that time as the golden age of our country. That was a time when life made sense, women were in the kitchen and blacks knew their place. And their place was not in the White House unless they were serving one of the white presidents.
It isn’t the economy. It isn’t our defense. It isn’t whether you lean to the left or right. We are living in a sick country. Our pathology is playing out to something larger in the future if we do not stop and dialogue about how we feel. This sad anniversary should remind us that we are not the same as before. We need to discuss this and stop blaming everyone else for the deep seated sadness, distrust and pain this country has suffered. We need to unite and have a group session that lasts another decade to rid our collective unconscious of this paranoia and cynicism.
Many will read this and assume that I am anti-American, a Pinko, leftist, Birkenstock wearing, tree hugging communist who wants to destroy this country. I can assure you that I am not. I just wish I had a magic want to wish away the rampant bigotry and hatred that pervades everything that is happening today. I want something better for my kids than listening to people who think evolution is a far out theory and gays are barbarians. I wasn’t around in the 50s but I’m thinking it wasn’t like Happy Days at all. It was scary and oppressive for anyone that was different or non-conformist. Lest we forget what Santayana said, ‘Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.’ The 50’s spawned the 60s. I am banking on the American spirit to rebound.