9/11 patriotism hard to find

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9/11 patriotism hard to find

pueblo-chieftain
chieftain editorial

Fifteen years ago today, America was shocked by terrorist attacks primarily in New York and at the Pentagon that took nearly 3,000 lives.

First, we felt disbelief. Then we were stunned. Then came anger and rage; demands for revenge.

But something else happened, something that we have lost in the intervening 15 years: Unity.

In 2001, we came together as a nation. It was common in the days and weeks after 9/11 to see people with flags waving from their cars and motorcycles. Healing concerts were held by numerous top-flight entertainers to raise money for the victims’ families. For a brief moment, we were one as U.S. citizens, united in our love for our country.

Today, we are far from united. In fact, we are polarized. We have learned, especially in this election cycle, that we are Americans last in the categorization of citizens. No. We are classified as Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, racists and elitists, rich and poor, black and brown and white.

We don’t listen to each other nor do we consider each other’s points of views. We don’t want to be bothered by the facts. We are close-minded, and those who disagree with us are enemies.

We yell, we scream. Even at an event as festive and fun as the Fiesta Day Parade on Northern Avenue during the State Fair, protesters yelled obscenities and spat at those who supported a candidate that they oppose.

We see Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, sit during the national anthem in protest of racism and mistreatment of minorities in the U.S. We support his right to do that, but frankly, what is his body of work to try to improve race relations?

Has he spent countless hours in the slums of our inner cities, where his celebrity would give him access to talk to gang members, drug dealers and others?

Has he spent his life protesting inequality and injustice, like, say, NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Has he sacrificed his career and his livelihood, as did Muhammad Ali, to take a stand? Has he spent his own money, as has NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, to open businesses in crime-riddled neighborhoods?

He can go ahead and sit if he feels he’s making a difference. But there comes a time when actions must be real and not symbolic. Sit if you must, Kaepernick, during the national anthem. But then rise and make a real difference.

And then we have the presidential race, in which one very intelligent candidate calls people names (Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Crooked Hillary) like he’s in elementary school. And the other candidate, likewise very intelligent, lacks the common sense to protect sensitive government emails.

Sadly and unnervingly, this race also has unearthed a great deal of ugliness in this nation. Watch the rallies and press conferences. People are nearly frothing in their hate and disrespect for their candidate’s opponent.

We are demonizing the two candidates for president. While we likewise are in dismay that this is the best we can come up with, we still want to hear what they have to say and consider their positions.

But most of the nation does not. Too many people just want to yell and scream and spit and hate.

Fifteen years since our nation’s greatest domestic tragedy. Fifteen years since we came together as a nation.

And today? We seem further apart than ever.

On this sacred day, let’s take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are to be Americans, to live in freedom in the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Let’s disagree, but let’s do it with class and consideration for those with whom we don’t agree.

Let’s look to the example of our Founding Fathers as they debated and argued before producing the remarkable Constitution. They found a way to work through their considerable differences.

That is what we must do, whether it’s in Congress or at a gathering of senior citizens in a doughnut shop. We must be willing to listen, to compromise and consider all points of view.

We shouldn’t need a national tragedy such as 9/11 to bring us closer together. And as we remember those who died in 9/11, let us ponder the wisdom of Maya Angelou, who wrote in her beautiful poem, “The Human Family”:

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

Fellow citizens, just because we have lost sight of that doesn’t mean we cannot regain it.

Let each of us rededicate ourselves to being true Americans. To respect each other, to listen to each other, to be willing to change our positions and beliefs if persuaded by the facts.

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”