Thoughts on September 11th (written September 11th, 2012)

September 11th, 2001 was certainly the most horrific disaster to happen in a country I was living in, and it is hard to forget the memories from that day as you watched footage of people crying, hearing stories of people having to make choices between being engulfed in flames or jumping out the window of a high office floor in the world trade center, or a stewardess on a plane saying goodbye to a loved one over the phone before the plane went down.  And we remember the strength of all those people who responded not only that day, but in the clean up afterwards.  A strength that not many of us perhaps have.  Not even knowing how their health would be impacted years later.

I see many people posting “never forget”, but the truth is people will forget.  Perhaps not those who lived through it, but human civilization will go on and in 70 or 80 years September 11th will be but a historic event in which nobody was even alive for.  In my lifetime I have seen the change in attitude in remembrance towards WWII.  Twenty years ago there were many WWII veterans left alive and that direct link to a war in which countless people died allowed our solemn feelings to remain strong, but now it too has become an unconnected historic event.  We know the loss of life was great, but other than that, few of us can really understand what it was like, and there are few left who we can even talk to share with us their memory.

So what can we remember from great wars or great tragedies that can benefit humanity in the long run?  I believe at its heart September 11th is an example of the dangers of extremism.  The terrorists who hijacked the plane were all rich Saudi’s who flourished in an area where poverty was great, education is not equal, government is corrupt, and separation of church and state is not prevalent.  In these conditions extremism and indoctrination take a foothold and are hard to get rid of. The terrorists of 9/11 were all firm in their belief that they were doing God’s work.  And that belief led them on a course to cause great destruction. If wars and tragedies like 9/11 are to be prevented it seems that answer lies in raising all people up so that there is equality, so that there is the opportunity for self-determination and personal success.  A man will believe in any cause if he feels that that cause has a chance to feed his family.  He may also believe in that cause if his life is too difficult and all he can hope for is some afterlife prescribed by the culture he grows up in.  I believe if we wish to stamp out extremism and leave it on the margins we must focus on helping our fellow human obtain earthly rewards not otherworldly ones.  We must raise him up through compassion and education and we must show that compassion equally regardless of their religion or geographic region.  Just like good parents treat their children equally regardless of whether their interests are similar to the parents, we must also try our bests to help those in need with that same kind of love and care.  Extremism has no reason to flourish in such an environment.

As we move forward I believe it is important as a country to develop foreign policy that is inclusive and not divisive.  We must continue to make sure everyone has basic human rights even if they subscribe to a different religion or are being oppressed by a country that is our ally.  Despite the fact that I disagreed with going into Iraq I actually do agree with the idea of trying to help rebuild that country despite how much it has cost us.  This is a lesson that was learned from WWII.  After WWI the world left Germany a destroyed place, forbid them to form a military and the poverty there was great.  Thus it was not surprising that someone like Hitler would be able to take over.  A person who would clearly be seen as a mad man in any other society that had a high standard of living and greater economic equality amongst the people. And in general we have been doing this as a world, and hey it’s been almost 70 years and no world war…that has to mean something.

Peace be with you on this day, especially to those families that were directly affected by this horrible tragedy.

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