Today is burned into the American psyche. We were attacked. Towers fell. The Pentagon burned. People died.
America retaliated with her military might. Terrorist organizations were shattered. Tyrannical regimes were toppled. Yet, she is no safer.
Americans have spent the last 9 years in a cocoon of fear. We fear the illegal immigrants seemingly flooding our borders. We fear Muslims and their strange faith. We fear an Islamic center being built near Ground Zero. We fear for our freedoms and rights. We fear our government, and we fear each other. Fear sells products and news shows.
We have forgotten what makes America great. It is not the government or even her people. America is great because of the ideas her people hold. America wasn’t built on so-called Christian ideals. She is not a theocracy. America was built on universal ideas of acceptance and equality. Certainly in her short history she hasn’t lived up to those ideals. Slavery before the Civil War and the Japanese-American concentration camps of World War II come to mind. However, she has constantly improved. Slavery was abolished. The concentration camps were ended. Today we have new failings. We view Islam as the source for 9/11. Islam didn’t cause it. Ignorance and fear caused 9/11.
The suicide pilots were ignorant for reality. They were brainwashed by teachings of mindless hatred under the guise of Islam. Certainly this doesn’t absolve them of their responsibility. In the United States we too have people brainwashed by hatred. Just look to the people who use the derogatory “towel heads” to label Muslims. Christianity is just as capable of being used to veil hate. It is being used even now to do just that.
September 11th was a victory for the terrorists because America succumbed to fear. We are shamefully xenophobic in the media. We fear what we don’t understand instead of seeking to learn and embrace those we fear. We have let our fear dictate our actions and foster even more hatred and extreme thinking. We lived up to their small expectations. They expected us to react as the heathens they view us. America’s reaction has even alienated moderate Islam in many regards.
Here is the hard reality. Terrorism will continue as long as people do not understand each other. It will continue as long as people broadly and wrongly label each other. Military force cannot stamp out ideas of hatred. It only fosters them by giving validity to extreme claims. Certainly American’s military intervention has improved the lives of many people, in particular women in extremist infected areas. A lasting victory can only result when we put away the guns and reach out in an effort to understand. It may sound naive. I realize not everyone can be reasoned with. Some brainwashing is incurable. However, only through compassion and understanding can hatred be reduced.
It is not a War or Terror or a war on Islam. It is the same war people have been fighting for centuries. It is a war based on misconceived ideas of each other, of ignorance, and of fear. Americans must get over their fear and ignorance to keep terrorism and extreme ideas from poisoning the country no matter their source.
As you take a moment to remember the lives lost on 9/11, take a moment to also remember the lives lost in the countries America applied military force. They too had families and loved ones who died because of fear and ignorance. Now ask yourself whether you too are a terrorist who spreads fear and ignorance or if you are fighting against the real roots of conflict through understanding and compassion.