Needless to say, 9/11 was a traumatic event. No one in this country was unaffected by it. There is not one life it has not changed. For myself, ten years after, I am still moved to tears when I view some of the images of that day.
America came together on September 11, 2001, and for several days afterwards. We were united by our fear and horror, and then by a common resolve to see our way through the tragedy. It did not hold for long. Rather soon, we were once more divided. Ten years after, we’re still at it, clawing and scratching at one another, and it is wearying.
Ten years after, we still lack a proper perspective on the event. Our unity was exploited, transformed into a call for patriotism and a battle cry. I have never been convinced that it was merely an attack on America. The Twin Towers were a symbol of global capitalism. That’s why the complex was called The World Trade Center.
Before long, a reckless president desperate to find something to be about, lied to us and led us into a needless war. The invasion of Iraq had more to do with a money-making opportunity called the Rebuilding of Iraq than it ever did with 9/11. Ten years after, how do we reconcile the deaths of 4474 Americans in Iraq with the 2752 who died on 9/11?
Ten years after, we seem to lack perspective on so many things. Our priorities are out of alignment with reality. We go out of our way to honor the first responders, and yet, looking at it objectively, they acted as we expected them to, for they get paid to risk their lives. And the same with the military, they find themselves in harm’s way because they volunteered for that duty. We don’t expect any less from them. I don’t disparage their service or their courage, but I wonder if we don’t inflate some acts of heroism out of proportion.
When I think of America’s heroes, I think of coal miners who brave dangerous conditions each day to provide this nation with electricity. I look forward to a time when coal is no longer needed. But today, I wonder why these heroes on whose shoulders so much depends remain invisible to us, forgotten until a mine collapses. Where are their national monuments? When do we consecrate memorials to their fallen?
When I think of heroes, I think of construction laborers, farmers and ranchers, steel workers, aircraft pilots, electrical workers, sanitation workers, fishers, loggers – these too are dangerous jobs. When will we as a nation mourn their sacrifice? Where are their steel crosses?
Ten years after, I have mixed feelings about 9/11. I find these anniversaries disturbing. All the words about security, resilience, honor and bravery, seem rather empty to me. Yesterday we dedicated a memorial to the heroes of Flight 93, and yet, no one is quite sure what transpired during the final moments of that flight. I suppose it was inevitable that they would pass into legend, like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie at the Alamo. But I had hoped for something more, that we might see beyond the fog of legend.
Ten years after, I wonder what we have learned from 9/11 and what should we have learned? Was the lesson merely how to manufacture a better mythology? To be more paranoid? In response to the attack, was our only recourse to attack someone else? It’s said that you should know your enemy. We’ve identified our enemy as being Muslim, but do we know the Muslim world any better now? Perhaps in a tactical sense, we might, but do we know the heart of Muslim people? Do we have any better understanding of the causes that have driven so many of them to terrorism? Have we reached out with real compassion to the vast majority of Muslims who reject terrorism?
I think what we should have been learning during this time is something about ourselves. Ten years after, we should be able to see more in ourselves than just resilience and courage. Ten years after, it seems we have not increased our knowledge. Ten years after, we should have greater insight into the evil that lies in human hearts and compels people to commit mass murder. I can’t help but feel that great events should produce great wisdom.
However, ten years after, we do not seem much further along. Monuments, crosses of steel, and speeches do not really heal, they only soothe, as remembrance alone is at best only a band-aid on the wound that is still sore and festering, ten years after.
When a good person sees mortals oppressed by old age and disease, attacked by a hundred pains, tortured by sorrow and fear from birth to death, moved by compassion she directs her conduct for their well-being: when she sees a world oppressed by instruments of pain in the region of hell, she seeks for the thunderbolt of knowledge which surely breaks these instruments of pain. She seeks for the strong plow of knowledge in order to clear the field of the world, which is covered with the scrub, thorns, and weeds of passion and hate, and all tangled with thick undergrowth of false doctrine.
– Candradipa Sutra