It's been 10 years since the devastating events of 9/11 and ten years of often equally devastating responses to 9/11. It seems like a good day to post the open letter I wrote in the days directly following that shocking morning, before the words "United We Stand" had been claimed by fear-mongers. I am saddened by the fact that so much of our collective response turned out to have come from a place of retribution and fear.
September 13, 2001
I realize that you’re receiving huge volumes of email after last week’s events yet I’m compelled to add my thoughts. Like most of us, I am still in the midst of making sense of, understanding and healing the trauma, but I do know that last week’s events were a rite of passage for me. As a 36-year-old Canadian living in the US, this is the closest brush I’ve had with atrocities committed by humans beings against human beings. The order of magnitude is shocking and I am experiencing a certain Innocence Lost. My heart is broken and I am afraid!
Coming of age in this way means stepping out from my usual apolitical position. I still do believe that my best contribution is offered one person at a time, however, given the current precarious state of the world, I need to take a bigger stand. I’m moved to appeal for Peace now before we are in the middle of war. I feel compelled to do whatever I can to keep us from that fate.
There’s an article by Canadian journalist Gordon Sinclair traveling around these days. Sinclair expresses appreciation for all that America has done for others and asserts that America is not appreciated enough. But I say, now is the time of true reckoning. In the coming days and weeks, we as a society will show our real colors. How will America respond when her financial foundations have been shaken? When past actions have been challenged and her values are in question? What will America do when her children have been threatened, hurt and even killed en masse?
As I watch the flags of patriotism and hear the cries of God Bless America rising up here in San Francisco I can only hope that Americans will stand together for the values of Life, Liberty and Freedom for all people. My fear, however, as I read the headlines and do my best to interpret the actions and comments of our leaders, is that those values may be protected only for “us” and that the concept of “us” will be open for interpretation with resulting grief and pain for many.
This morning I read in the New York Times a poll stating that approximately 60% of Americans believe military action should be taken even if thousands of innocent lives are lost.
People far more informed and knowledgeable than I have outlined how we cannot win by striking back. In my opinion, no one ever wins in war and victory in this case is especially elusive given the nature of the enemy. But if America absolutely must strike out and retaliate (for whatever comfort or satisfaction that will bring!?), I, for one, pray that it be against only those individuals proven to be personally responsible. Now more than ever let’s protect the innocent at all cost. Not just our innocent, but also every innocent citizen of the world.
I’m not saying there are easy answers in times as vastly complex as these. But I do hope that we stand together in our grief and anger and rise above the self-righteous perpetration of death and destruction. Better for us to look at the many ways we have repeatedly contributed to violence and instead use our intelligence to somehow break the cycle. And as one of the most powerful nations in the world, the real test for our leaders now is finding the true resilience, strength, power and courage to rise above a primal response so that they may represent us as a civil nation that truly does justice to the values held dearly by so many Americans.
United we stand, divided we fall. Let this be our global anthem. And may searching for the way be our path.
With Love and Hope,
Ps. In case you’ve made it this far…The power of the internet to promote hopeful (and other) messages is great. I’ve received many, many letters speaking to the current plight, which is symbolized by Tuesday’s terrorist events. Three of the most deserving of propagation, in my opinion are a message from Deepak Chopra, a letter from the Dalai Lama to President Bush and an article by Afghani-American writer Tamim Ansary. If you’d like to read them just let me know and I’ll forward them to you.