Within the flaming debris that was the false sense of American security, we became seated at the grand table of sociopolitical commonality. America had the greatest opportunity since the start of World War II to discuss and resolve the entirety of her social, political and economic ills with a common element—its very survival—at the core.
All of us understood that we were perceived as the blasphemous denizens of an enemy state, and we would almost justify that dehumanization if we had failed to do what even a few lowly prey animals do in times of crisis. And what certain animals do is forget their rankings within their herds, temporarily band together and face the challenge of an enemy when threatened. Only after the common threat has been eluded or dealt with do the animals revert to their previously-established social dynamics, but if we wanted to show our true humanity, we’d have to do better than animals.
Unfortunately, as America emerged from the smoke and shadows in the uncertain days following September 11th, she drew forth a blade not sharpened by the national virtues of truth and justice but dulled and tarnished by lies and supposition, and she obstinately went to war against the wrong country. We needed to be more than animals, better than animals, and our campaign needed to yield a lasting peace from without and a true, lasting domestic tranquility. We needed to annihilate our foreign enemies, but we also needed to annihilate the poisons that divided America. Tragically, the divisions only widened.
Following the attacks, America was beset by alleged “patriots” who physically attacked Muslims at will even as they swore absolutely loyalty to this nation and the peaceful ideals it stands for. The “patriots” conveniently forgot that America is the world’s racial, ethnic and religious “melting pot,” a kaleidoscope of the human kind, so they attacked innocent persons such as Sikhs and Hindus for absolutely inane reasons including (but not limited to) appearing to be like Muslims or just not looking “American enough” in their eyes. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant notes filled in-boxes on a daily basis. Political pundits vilified all Arabs and Muslims in order to further their anti-immigrant agendas. And there was more.
A defining moment in the first ten years following the attacks occurred on November 3rd, 2008. On that day, Senator Barack Obama won the presidency of the United States by winning the lion’s share of votes from black, Latino, and Asian voters, and he won a significant portion of votes from Caucasians as well. However, he did not win the majority of Caucasian votes, as that racial voting bloc was the only one of the charted races to give Senator John McCain any form of victory. There was a definite skew by race, and it showed that blacks and whites did not share the same vision of America’s future in percentages commensurate with other races. The chart below shows the racial preferences at work:
I believe that if race played no part in election results, then the percentages afforded to Obama and McCain would’ve had the same relative evenness among all races as they did among Latinos, Asians, and “Other.” Accordingly, the votes cast by groups other than blacks and whites were based not on color but on the person they believed to be the best equipped to handle the job.
America, we blew it. Badly. I believe that in failing to seize the moment, in failing to reach commonality following the greatest national tragedy since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, in failing to come together as a society in times that all but demand a cohesive national effort, we absolutely failed those innocents who died in the first American war of the 21st century. We now we stand in a nation largely divided along racial and political lines, and this was absolutely unthinkable in the flag-waving days following the attacks on September 11th.
We came so damn close to coming together as a cohesive whole, but just as we did in the years following World War II, we retreated from that which is the common good and embraced self-interest and the comfort of those whose race, ethnicity, and/or sociopolitical slant are similar to our own. We are again a divided nation, yet if we are to honor the thousands who died on September 11th, we need to understand that the differences between Americans don’t have to be liked, but they do have to be accepted, even grudgingly so, if we are to join together to forge a better nation.
The above is part two of my true story about 9/11 and ten years later, and of my true thoughts about the current national situation. It is a revised version of an article I wrote years ago in Uncommon Comments and in the pages of Passions APA, and it remains very relevant. Join me next week for another blog entry, and please become a subscriber if you like reading On My Mind Today. Thank you.
All the best,