Here it is, ten years after the attacks on the twin towers. It’s been an interesting ten years, but the truth is that for many of us that attack had very little direct effect on our lives. I think that’s what I want to talk about here. And let me warn you that if your beliefs on how a ten year retrospective on one of our biggest tragedies should read are pretty well set, this probably isn’t the article for you, because I plan to write from the perspective of someone who is sympathetic, but whose life wasn’t really changed.
Here’s the thing about the terrorist attacks. They were scary. Having grown up in the 1980s though, and all the threat of nuclear annihilation by the Russians, I was already pretty desensitized to the fear of war. I fear it. I’m not trying to play myself off as some hard ass who isn’t scared of anything. I’m simply saying that when nothing further happened for about a week, I went about my life. Heck, I went about my life anyway. I went to work that day, only a few hours after the attacks. True, I didn’t really want to, but I was burned out on that job long before that, so that makes sense. The thing that surprised me the most was that as a society, we really took this one hard. As a society we did. As an individual, I took it about as hard as I take it when I hear of any tragic death involving someone I don’t know. It saddens me a little, I worry about my own mortality a little, and then I move on with my life.
If you had been around me around then, you probably would have thought I was an insensitive asshole, and to an extent I probably was. The reaction to the tragedy was a bit crazy to me. People were telling me that we needed to bomb whole countries. People were telling me that the Muslim religion was made up of hate-mongers. A well known preacher came out and said that the attacks happened because of homosexuals. It was crazy to me, and I was my ever satirical self, reflecting the nonsense in my obnoxious way.
I talk often that I’m a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, and I think one piece of evidence is that I don’t believe in war. I think it’s a bad idea all around. I hear from some people that there are necessary wars, and to an extent I agree. When you have a maniac like Adolf Hitler running around, somebody needs to step in. Millions of people died in World War II. I don’t think that as a world we should ever go back to that.
We’ve heard a lot about how we rose up as a nation, and became stronger as a people. To an extent I agree with that. It was a good way for those of us who didn’t have a direct loss from the attacks to be there for those who did. Anyone who stepped up and helped has my respect. I had bills to pay. I couldn’t really step away and help out.
But I do have another thought concerning this, because like I said, there was a lot of rhetoric about how we should take revenge of some form or another, and perhaps some of our military action has been for the good. I can’t really say. There are those who believe that our military action was contrived, and those who show that it was entirely necessary. I sit on the fence somewhere between those two beliefs.
What I learned from the whole thing is that intolerance of another way of life caused the attacks. It wasn’t just that the foreigners hated the Americans, or some nonsense like that. The terrorists were a group of people who were against the peaceful ways of their own religion too. They were intolerant to the passivity of their religion, and they were intolerant to the lifestyle and religions of the United States. We’re all humans, and by saying that, I’m not saying that some humans aren’t assholes. There are bad people out there, and on an individual basis, it is ok to react poorly to antagonism. But there is not a group of people out there in any country who all deserve to be killed because of their beliefs. That’s the mentality of war. I hope that in the last ten years, we have stepped far enough away from the fear that we felt in the days, weeks, months, and years, following the attacks, to see that misdirected hate is a bad thing, no matter where it comes from.
It’s real easy to point to things and say, “See something good came out of war,” but you have to also acknowledge that good comes from peace and acceptance. I’d like to believe that far more comes from peace and acceptance. Not in some hippy commune way, but in the way that has been shown by many of our great leaders in history; the truly great leaders who looked to end violence and hatred. Remember I talked about the Russians earlier. I have always been in awe by the way that Ronald Reagan sat down and said something to the effect of: Mikhail, we both want peace. Let’s make it happen.