It is often hard to gauge how a person will react during a crisis let alone one like September 11th. After such a destructive and devastating event, a person’s first instinct is to fight back hard and fast making whoever is in the way feel the agony.
Punishment or revenge no matter who it affects is one way to try to alleviate ones suffering and grief. We all have it in us – that ability to fight, maim, and kill. We also have the ability to choose another road during such a complex and emotional journey.
I, like many, remember that morning. The first plane flew low over my Greenwich Village apartment. I walked out and watched the buildings burn. I couldn’t help thinking that this shocking event was directly connected to centuries of a hegemonic US foreign policy in Arab and Muslim countries. One that supports dictators and monarchies who suppress their own people and one that has done nothing but pay lip service to the illegality of the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine. These policies, which do nothing but compromise basic rights for Arab and Muslim populations that have scars of their very own, often inflame wounds that run longer and deeper than those we all continue feel after 9/11.
I also knew on that day America had an unprecedented opportunity to lead the world in engagement that looked beyond war. Unfortunately America’s choice, instead, was one of war.
As military, homeland and intelligence expenditures grew personal freedoms were lost. While death and occupational forces mounted, America lost international credibility in its quest for revenge. Make no mistake, people should be held responsible for their crimes and further their behavior. However, after ten years of war, the one in Iraq completely unnecessary, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, trauma embedded in the millions who fought and survived, and, the very people we were trying to save will live for many generations with their own tremendous loss of home, family and self.
Americans proclaim, “they will never change us.” But “they” have.
The West has moved exponential to the right bringing their own fundamentalist Christian ideologies to the forefront. Intolerance and fear of those who do not look or worship like “us” continues to escalate. White supremacy and violent law has become a norm. Americans have allowed themselves to be pushed to excessive conservatism holding to a constitution of guns instead of a respect for human rights.
US industry resides in other counties and its thirst for knowledge and scientific innovation is gone. While Brazil, Russia, India and China chose to make money, the US economic desire for being first has been bundled and sold to the highest bitter for pennies. America has lost its vast influence around the world and continues to focus on nothing more than weapons and more war.
Moreover, the country has become so polarized and divisive that it is clearly on a path of quick decline, I now wonder if it will even allow itself to survive. With all the endless partisan bickering, America is slowly doing Osama bin Laden’s bidding by conquering itself.
The events of September 11th were not a message of war, they were a message of peace. It was a horrific way of reminding the world of what marginalization, repression and conflict does to people giving them a reason to believe killing will solve even legitimate grievances.
Although, striking back at first made everyone feel good, our nation and our military servants are paying a high price for these actions and ten years of combat. In essence, those good feelings only lasted a very short time.
The thousands of people who gave their lives that day, and for the subsequent conflicts, deserve more. It is our duty to honor them by moving beyond violence. There is a choice. That choice must be beyond the very thing that has taken away our friends and loved ones. That choice must be to realize we must find alternatives – ways other than war.
It is up to us to remember those who have fallen on 9/11 and in two ongoing wars by ending a world of violent response. We all must ensure that these types of events must never happen to anyone again. In the words of the John Cole, a famous cartoonist, “The best ways to honor the fallen should be to find more ways to not send others to join them.” By ending all this violence those who lost lives will not have done it in vain.