Our flag is going up today because we love our country. But I have to say I don’t like this day. I didn’t like it 11 years ago when it scared the hell out of me, and I don’t like it any more today. In some ways it scares me even more now.
11 year ago we took a collective kick to the teeth. We learned that being American doesn’t make you magically less vulnerable to the plans of evil men. We learned that for all the cool things we are and do, we are still at the end of the day just as human as everyone else. We collectively bleed, we can be collectively hurt.
The best thing that came out of this experience was our neighbors. They all came out the night we lit candles on the curb, and we talked. We needed to talk. We needed to share. It was too much. Things were too important. Me made friendships that night that continue on to this day. It made the block we live on “our” block. It made our house more of a home. It gave us a sense of belonging. This is a priceless gift, as I see the effects on those who do not have this. So thank you 9/11, thank you America for that.
But born on that day was another thing, a more sinister thing. An ugliness born of the desire to somehow get back to where we were before that day. I understand the longing for innocence lost. I understand the need to feel safe, and as a father I certainly understand the need to protect our children from the world. But there is no protection that comes at the end of a fist. There is no protection — even for the country with the greatest military on the Earth — that cannot be overcome by evil men if given enough time and money. We cannot will away the scars of 9/11, and unlike Pearl Harbor we cannot conquer the country that gave us them.
So we are stuck. Stuck feeling vulnerable. Stuck feeling insecure. Stuck feeling like there is nothing we can do.
Except we are NOT stuck. This feeling, this giant collective insecurity, can ALSO be a good thing. It can teach us what it is like to live pretty much anywhere else in the world. We can empathize with people from Somalia, Cambodia, Columbia, and China, because everyone else ALSO has this feeling. This is a good thing, a collective thing. A knowledge that even though we can be hurt we can also work together to not let our children all over the Earth be hurt like this again. Oh I don’t know if it is possible to keep every child on the Earth safe from feeling this way, but I think that’s a damn fine goal to have. I mean if we’re going to think of ourselves as exceptional, why not be exceptional for something worth being exceptional about?
This is the lesson I learned from 9/11. This is the lesson I learned the night my neighbors came over and we shared our collective grief, and in that sharing forged friendships that pushed back the darkness. Just a little mind you, but still pushed it back.
Terrorists can manipulate your massive and awesome military, heck they are trained to do this. Terrorist can make you feel insecure, and vulnerable. But the one thing they cannot do is take aware your friendships. Terrorist thrive on your terror and your fear, but they have no response to love, they don’t have a clue what to do about caring when they are expecting bombs.
So on this 9/11, I say we be exceptionally caring, exceptionally loving, and exceptionally dangerous to those who want us afraid. What better way is there to fuck with those sons of bitches than to respond to their evil with loving and care?