A brief note about 9/11 – as I write from Istanbul

As I sit here in a predominantly Islamic country on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I am somewhat torn emotionally as one might expect. I don’t have enough time to fully dissect those emotions or to try to bring them to the forefront completely. So I will simply say a few things.

It is hard for us as Americans to face a faceless enemy. One without a state, without a flag, without borders, buildings or visible leaders. We don’t do well with it. We want someone to blame, to pin the target to. It damages our psyche to not have a tangible foe to do battle with. And that is what leads us to want to reach out and grab the next closest, available person in line.

I would be a liar to say that I haven’t had internal struggles and multiple quiet conversations with myself concerning how to deal with my emotions during my trips here to this country. Once again, I don’t have the time to go into it. But just know that I am sitting here missing my flag and my friends on this day.

What I must share with you though, and what you have to try to understand, no matter how difficult it may be sometimes, is that the few very shallow, twisted hijackers and their co-conspirators  who attacked us, hijacked more than a few planes that day. They hijacked an entire religion and an entire world full of people who believe in a religion and are devoted to it very, very deeply.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t understand the religion and see a few things, as ignorant as I may be of other people’s beliefs, that I don’t like, will never like and nobody is ever going to convince me of their meaning, purpose or in what way they serve god and society. But what I will not do is condemn entire races, countries and civilizations for having something to believe in,¬† stand for and fight to protect. Those are values I can understand, and that strike at the very heart of what it is to be an American for me.

I will go on supporting someone’s right to believe in and worship whatever and whomever they want, so long as they don’t tell me I have to as well. I believe it is the right thing to do as a person and certainly the right thing to do as an American. We mustn’t lose who we truly are amidst any pain and desires for vengeance which still linger inside us 10 years later.¬† Today is our day to remember our fallen and pray, yes pray – in what ever way we may, for their families, friends and loved ones. But we mustn’t continue beyond this day to only think of our losses.

We have to begin to open our arms to, and find a place in our heart for the millions of people who have been displaced, shunned, injured, killed and maimed, wounded and tortured, seen their families and entire villages murdered as a result of the actions of a few lunatics attempting to bring us to war with a large part of the population of the planet. For they too are the victims of 9/11 and have suffered on just as great a scale as have we. We cannot continue to look beyond the sacrifice of innocents – take it or leave it – believe it or not – like it or not.

We owe it to ourselves as people, as citizens, as Americans Рjust as we owe it to the honor of our fallen and those still falling Рto never lose sight of the fact that we were not born a great nation.  We had to fight and die and sacrifice to become one and the only reason we have had continued prosperity, was because people have historically learned how to understand one another, get along with each other and fight for and beside their neighbor for a common cause.

It is because we have been able in the past to look beyond our differences in the interest of a better good that we stand where we stand today with our heads held high after bowing them in remembrance. It is time that we start along that path of recovery yet again, and mend the fences with humanity. For it is our job. It always has been. And we have to do it in order to remain who we are.

We are not above and beyond that which takes place in the rest of the world and we are not impervious to the ugliness which hatched terrorism in the first place. It would help us to realize that the inability to exchange words, language, philosophy and common understanding are much greater barriers to peaceful coexistence than the mortar, round domes and stone towers will ever be.


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