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Remembering 9-11

September 11, 2018

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As I sit here writing with the names of the dead lost on September 11 being read in the background on TV it’s easy to get very emotional.  It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since this tragedy.  You can still hear the pain in the voices of the family members as they take turns reading from the list.  It must have been extremely hard to cope with their grief all these years.  I only hope they can find peace at some point.

Many things changed that day.  It feels as if we live in a different world.  Our country has been at war since that day.  Thousands of troops have lost their lives and many more have sustained lifelong injuries.  The costs have been immense and at times hard to fathom.  Sadly, although we are making slow progress in holding those accountable for this act of terrorism, the anger and evil that lurks behind their movement is still alive and well as evidenced by the many threats and worries surrounding today’s commemorative event.

There is a general sense of instability in the world today, especially in the Middle East.  While there are glimmers of hope in the form of the Arab Spring there are also daily reminders of how cruel, desperate, and inhumane people can be who are clinging to power and/or perverting religious orthodoxy to suit their own needs.  I remain flummoxed and distressed by anyone who justifies acts of terrorism and savagery in the name of their God.  How could killing total strangers advance your cause of spiritual purity?  My God is a God of tolerance, understanding, peace, and love not intolerance, vengeance, bitterness, and self-righteousness.  You never lift people up by holding them down.  You also will never be successful in trying to rid the world of all those who disagree with you.

The two questions that accompany any pivotal moment in history are what are we supposed to learn from this and where do we go from here?  I’m hopeful that our leaders will see that violence will only ever beget more violence and that mankind can either evolve or devolve based on our ability to manage disagreement and conflict.  Fear is rarely a catalyst for sound long-term decision making and praying on people’s fears or making knee-jerk reactions to momentous events is the opposite of leadership.  Correspondingly, the diplomatic mindset of “the ends justifying the means” will inevitably only lead you down the path of diminished credibility and strategic vulnerability – throughout history, it’s only ever been a question of time.

The stakes continue to get higher as we perfect the art of weaponry, logistical barriers recede, and we draw divisions based on moral or religious grounds.  Moreover, when you dehumanize the enemy, it makes it much easier to treat their life as having no meaning or value which is a very slippery slope.  Of course, there needs to be accountability and justice for what took place.  We need to ensure that our nation and our allies are well protected and safe. We need to speak up and vigorously support movements for freedom and democracy wherever they emerge in the world.  Despite our current economic challenges, we need to use our relative wealth and power to help alleviate suffering and provide support to those countries that are less fortunate.

We also need to understand and appreciate that there is no long-term military solution to this problem.  This war on terror will have no end date if we are not careful.  The costs of sustaining such a prolonged and complex military conflict are unsustainable and divert valuable resources needed elsewhere to solve other pressing problems.  Finally, we must never lose sight of who we are becoming in the process of responding to what happened 10 years ago.  The world continues to watch and scrutinize our leadership.  In the end, every Nation and Individual is defined much more by what they do rather than what they say or believe.  Actions always speak louder than words.

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones on 9/11.  I hope that today is not too painful for them.  And, that one day they will be able to find closure and make peace with what happened.  I am certain that the spirit of their departed resides within them and the love that was there will always remain.   I am also grateful every day for the sacrifices that our military families make on our behalf – their actions speak for themselves.  I pray that we get the leadership necessary to guide us out of the darkness of fear, anger, resentment, excessive judgment, and retribution and move us towards the light that appeals to what Abraham Lincoln termed the “better angels of our nature.”