This is just a guess – but I’m pretty sure you’re all aware that we just passed the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
I want to talk about what this means – and what tarnished the its legacy. A decade ago, terrorists commandeered American passenger planes and – in a well-coordinated attack – destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon. There was a fourth airplane that was headed for either Congress or the White House, no one’s sure. We only know that when the brave passengers realized what was happening, they fought back and crashed the plane. They all died. Thanks to their heroism, no one else did.
Therefore, every year on September 11th, we memorialize and recall the tragedies.
Ten years ago, we mourned – and feared. We were attacked. On our soil. American soil.
Who did such a thing? Would they do it again? Was the government safe? Were WE safe?
We were all patriotic. SO patriotic. We bonded as a nation. We cared. We turned to each other. We cried together. We hoped together.
That day has become known as “the day that everything changed.”
The unanswered question: did things change for the better? … Or, did we let our fears overcome us … and divide us.
Let’s think about patriotism. How do we define it? Love of country
But what on earth does it really mean to love your country?
I do love our country – because I love our ideals.
These words – from the Declaration of Independence -- are our cornerstone: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
American history is the long story of trying to make this text come true. These are not mere hopes. This vision is the real stuff of patriotism.
The clarion call 9-11 – the national zeal for patriotism – could have been a renewed passion to cling to American ideals more than ever.
Renewed patriotism should have meant an even more intense commitment to:
• Justice – for everyone
• Freedom – which includes the right to dissenting opinions, your own religious ideals, and most importantly, the right to select our leaders.
• Unity – the knowledge that we all have a stake in our country, our government.
• And finally – security. Security from foreign invasion, certainly!
But … security also means that we do not live in fear.
Living in fear does corrode our psyches.
Unfortunately, 9/11 gave us a legacy of fear. We must do everything we can to stay safe.
If safety means we shun everyone that’s not like us … well, at least we’ll be safe.
If we have to close our eyes to torture – well, if it keeps us save, it’s worth it.
If we have to surrender some of our own values to stay safe – well, okay.
Since 9/11 – our freely elected government is less and less dependent on us for votes. Elections cost obscene amounts of money. What happens to you and me in the process?
Even worse, the incredibly expensive political ads tell us nothing about the candidates. The more money coming in, the more vicious the campaign.
In a recent Menorah, Bob wrote movingly about his own experience with xenophobia – which is fear of people who aren’t like us.
This fear has infected the nation – causing planes to be diverted when Muslim imams – were dressed like imams – and when young Jewish men prayed with tefillin!
Freedom of speech is often the freedom to shout down anyone who disagrees with us.
And unity? Has anyone ever seen the nation as divided as today?
Processing the events of 9/11 has not been easy. The last decade has not given us America at its best.
But … as we approach a new year … and another decade of post-9/11 history … we can work to fix “what’s broke.”
Yes, stay patriotic! But we have to remember, the patriotic ideal is for ALL Americans. It’s supposed to keep us united.
That doesn’t mean that we all think the same. God forbid. We only learn if we can discuss different ideas.
We MUST respect the freedom to be different.
We must respect not just our own ability to vote – but the rights of ALL citizens to vote.
Of course, to be an informed voter, we have to listen to opposing viewpoints and NOT BE POISONED by the vitriol flowing into the public arena. And yes, that vitriol comes from all sides.
9/11 CAN BE the day that changed America – for good.
It can and should be a time to both remember the dead and celebrate the greatness and promise of our country.
When we ask God to bless America … we MUST ADD – God, please help us make America worthy of Your blessing.