Ten years ago I was driving to work, listening to a morning shock jock when the news broke. First it sounded like an accident as it did to everyone else. And then the 2nd plane hit. And then the Pentagon. And then Flight 93 crashed. The world changed immediately – all of it.
Later in the day after the planes were all grounded, my daughter and I watched as Air Force One flew over our house outside of Washington, D.C. It was surrounded by fighter jets and the sound barrier had just been broken by an advance ‘scout’ jet that flew seemingly ten short feet above our trees. It was very surreal to know that the man on the 747 high above was just thrust into a situation only the most macabre individual could imagine.
I struggled to try to find something that mattered anymore. The job seemed unimportant; money seemed unimportant – pretty much everything seemed unimportant to me except LIFE, not MY life but life of all and the realization that life is precious. And in the following days and weeks Millions of people acknowledged feeling the same way.
In the aftermath of the events of 9/11, sentiment and sorrow was outpoured toward America from much of the world. And for weeks and months Americans reached out to each other; there was kindness in the lines of the grocery store, drivers seemed outright delighted to let another vehicle merge or change lanes. People said ‘hi’ and meant it.
We became Americans again and we were inextricably intertwined with one another. We weren’t any longer whites, blacks, Jews, Christians, etc. For a while we joined together as a Nation because we all had a common enemy. We as a society became what we could always be. Domestic conflicts slowed tremendously; previous racial and religious conflicts and intolerance of sexual preferences dissipated and random acts of kindness were performed in previously unseen numbers. Talk shows, newscasts and neighbors spoke of the only thing of any good that came from those horrific events was that it bound us together and reminded us all of what’s truly important – Life and Each Other.
One question – what happened?
We’re seemingly back to our old ways. Maybe we’ve forgotten how wonderful it felt to belong again? To feel that we were part of something big and important? To KNOW that our determination, drive and desires of Americans could change the world for the better if we wanted it? You all know of what I am speaking – after 9/11 we looked at each other in the stores, we gained solace from the sense of inclusion and shared trauma – as Americans we all belonged and we wanted to belong together.
It seems people are back to thinking that their neighbor is going to steal from them – they may be correct, if their neighbor also lost the sense of togetherness and oneness, the charity of mere inconveniences seems to have disappeared for the most part as well. I’m not the only one that has noticed – I’m sure you will now as well; but it doesn’t have to stay this way.
I drive some people crazy – they will often call me ‘idealistic’ some even have ‘pet’ names for me like ‘brightside Dave’ or ‘Mr. Optimistic’. Well, since idealistic refers to how things can be with perfect circumstances – I guess I am very idealistic; because one thing that I am, is an expert in Human Nature. And while Human Nature explains much of the bad we see today, it is also the reason that we can make a great world, filled with great people.
I do not believe in the human spirit because of what we have become –I believe in the human spirit because of what we can become and what we can achieve. People often make comments to explain injustices of the world. ”Well, that’s human nature” and other similar comments. Of course they are usually right because Human Nature can explain nearly every single thought and action that occurs.
However, Human Nature should not ever be accepted as the scapegoat of how things are; as though there is nothing we can do about changing it. Other than opposable thumbs, Human Nature is truly the only thing that separates us from animals – if we learn from it, grow within it and reap the benefits we will as a People begin to always seek the greatness within ourselves and each other, rather than merely using it as an excuse to be allowed to be mean.
I was told on the phone the other day by the CEO of a company that he learned ‘Whiteness’ at Harvard and had no need for my services (I’m black if you’ve not seen my picture). I wasn’t shocked at his racial bias, I’ve been black since birth so I’m relatively used to it – but what shocked me was that he was so intent of his opinion that he was uncaring to at least determine that I wasn’t friends or colleagues with a client of his! I’m pretty sure that Harvard would take offense to his comments. He holds government contracts and has 4 offices throughout the East Coast and yet was in no way hesitant to display his hatred.
Life is too precious to ever be taken for granted again, isn’t it? I’m black, he’s white; she’s Christian, she’s not… aren’t we smarter than that?
Interestingly, most actions in world history that oppress others have been based on religious beliefs. The Crusades of Christianity; the despicable acts of terrorism done ‘in the name of Allah’; the atrocities of hitler (I still refuse to regard him enough to even capitalize his name), etc. – their belief system is that ‘their’ god made them better and wants to keep them pure. Yet, without exception these groups acknowledge that God or Allah will be the one to perform judgment. So how about this idea – let’s all get along here and in this life… and let our Supreme Being be the one to judge.
Hatred comes from fear; fear comes from ignorance. Don’t worry about the hatred in people – let’s teach the ignorance and hatred will leave. Let’s learn about each other; lets discuss our differences; let’s explore what other people think and why. What we will find is:
- We are all more similar than we are different
- That the bias or prejudices that many have were passed from their parents or early institutions and that they also had no choice in learning them
- ALL hatred, prejudice and fear can be eradicated with knowledge, exposure and kindness.
On 9/11/01 we discovered how ugly the results of hatred can be.
Let’s make Our Country and Our People the best people by showing each other tolerance, understanding and compassion. Don’t fight the hatred – strive to enlighten the ignorance. We are in this together and I for one, want to belong to the post 9/11 America – again.
All I’m saying is this, if we aren’t contributing to a better planet and trying to be better people toward others – maybe we shouldn’t be so eager to show to others our willingness to make it worse? Maybe? As the classic rock song states, “If we don’t stand for something we can fall for anything”.
“The only thing it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke