Wrestling with Thoughts on Today
[when writing this, I realize it’s disjointed. I wrote parts, deleted some, moved, wavered, reflected on should I or shouldn’t I say...etc. I’m wrestling with all of this. It’s become hard to talk rationally because we (meaning me too) have become a people who like to talk instead of listen. I get sad when I realize I’m just pointing fingers. That’s not my goal. I want to help in passing along the conversation about helping others. These are just my convictions]
Today marks the 12th anniversary of the tragedy called 9-11. We remember or reflect on a day, a normal day, when people were going to work, dropping off children for school, watching the news, doing their morning jog, when they heard or saw horror. Planes crashed into buildings and a field, resulting in the death of nearly 3000 individuals. Some of them just happened to be in harms way while others went into harms way.
I remember the day well myself. It was a warm Tuesday morning. For some reason I can’t recall, I was in a rare cheery mood. On the way to work, I was listening to music, humming along and just feeling good. I saw signs on the freeway indicating that the nearby airport was closed off to traffic, but somehow it didn’t seem unusual to me. Traffic itself seemed lighter than usual, but it still didn’t clue me into something have happened.
I got to work, but it was early still. No one crossed my path through the parking lot. The receptionist in the lobby was on the phone with someone and I just breezed through like normal. I got to my shared office that was still dark. After flicking on the lights, computer turned on, I went to make some hot cocoa. Nothing out of the normal for me. Soon I was at my desk, beginning my day’s work. About an hour later, my co-worker arrived and sat down. I asked how he was this morning, and he said “terrible.” I asked what was the matter. He began to tell me the news from New York. He had watched the news live, seeing the towers fall. Instantly I went to news websites myself and began to follow the day’s happenings. It was hard for me to understand how this was happening and I began to ask God “why?!”
The days following, there was an outpour of patriotism being shown. Flags were everywhere. Even I put one up at my desk. I remember a speech given by President George Bush, at ground zero, which seemed to give a confidence that we as a country were not broken, and that through unity, we would rebuild. I felt proud of him at that moment, and proud of the people around me.
After the ground zero speech, began the next step. He announced that there would be a war on terror, in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden. To be honest, up until recently, I had never heard much about Muslims, and so this was a crash-course introduction. I was a new believer in Jesus at the time, and in a lot of ways, I saw the world as black and white. I knew there are Christians and Jews, the need to support Israel in their ongoing fued with neighboring Palestinians (who I assumed were all Muslims, and thus were wrong). From the news, I believed in general that Muslims were all anti-american, lived in poverty, wore tunics, had brown skin, lived in deserts, and acted as an angry mob. Again, I was new to the teachings of Jesus and fresh on my mind were the idea of Loving God and loving my neighbor. Fresh on my mind were His teachings to love my enemy. So when I heard George Bush declare war on terrorists all over the world, to hunt them down wherever they may be, promising in essence “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, I began to wonder and feel off. Was it not too long before (when campaigning to be president) that he said he was a follower of Jesus? So I began to wonder if Jesus’s teachings applied to us as a country. I understood deep down that if people treated their enemy as a friend, then we wouldn’t have enemies. Ideally this would be happening both ways in giving and receiving, and I knew that wasn’t a reality. But, I saw it as possible. I saw it as wise and courageous. From that standpoint, I found myself disagreeing with the President and many around me. I felt the 9-11 tragedy was now turning into a witch hunt. I didn’t understand or know solutions to everything, but I just felt it was wrong at a fundamental level. I felt it would be an endless war with a faceless enemy.
Over the next few months, I found myself in debates with both Christians and non-Christians. The majority believed the US was doing the right thing. Evil had to be punished. It was then that I learned that what Jesus taught individuals, didn’t entirely apply to nations. This left me feeling confused and a bit disillusioned. Was I wrong in my understanding? I didn’t feel settled. I was torn between mercy and justice.
Over the years, I’ve learned from people, ranging from Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., St. Francis of Assisi, Ghandi, and just people in my community. From them, I see the Scriptures applied in a physical world and actually having an effect towards good, and making an impact. This has solidified my belief that Jesus is right, is wise, and the One to follow. And to follow Him and not care about my community, local and abroad, to me is a big oversight.
I have become convinced that what we believe does matter.
As the years have gone by, much has happened. I still had my question of “why?!” to many things. In the aftermath, I’ve heard many speeches and defenses saying America is the best. More and more, I began to question this and became tired of bumper-sticker slogans. I wanted meat.
When Osama Bin Laden was killed, the patriotism from the 9-11 days resurfaced in part. Many welcomed it as closure to an ugly day in our recent past. But for me, I had trouble with it. If he was/is guilty of masterminding 9-11 plans, he did deserve justice. The loss of life because of someone’s ideology isn’t excusable. At the same time, I wondered if it was just a symptom of a greater problem of back and forth hitting. Who’s turn is it now? Are we tired of playing this game?
When there is a national tragedy in our country, the unity is overwhelming, or so it seems. Why does it take someone dying for us to care? Why does it have to be an American for us to care?
I’ve learned much from history, which has helped (and hurt) my understanding. I learned of our history in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Korea (north and south), all of which are still current issues. And I began to wonder, was 9-11 partially the fault of our past? This is where I will lose many readers. I realize there are the conspiracy theories. Many of them in my opinion are unprovable beyond the legions of youtube detectives, and so I can’t say anything to that. But, history has a funnier way of shedding light on things. Our country has been involved (to what extent and intent I’m not sure) in setting up bad governments or supporting bad governments for many decades (and I’m guessing for far longer than I now know). These governments have been heavily oppressive of their people in many ways. I can’t imagine the PR that the US gets when we come in saying “we will help you”, when the help we have given has paved the way for horrible dictators. We’ve helped with revolutions, with weapons, influencing elections, removing leaders, installing leaders, pitting country against country...and the more I read about it, the more I still wonder, why? I don’t mean to say what others do in retaliation is excusable, but I wonder who will be first to have the sense to not retaliate with violence.
As a follower with Jesus, I find it hard to reconcile certain things. Is it ok to ask questions that possibly put a country/way of thinking into a bad light? Should I ignore history?
We don’t cry when there are large numbers killed in other countries. We don’t set up memorials, devote days of news coverage, sell tshirts, or possibly, we don’t even notice. It’s not American, so it’s inferior and or less interesting. But, when something does happen abroad, we give reasons to keep it arms distance. Of course it happened there, they’re evil, they’re lazy (in the case of an economic downfall).
When I see the American flag, from my point of view, it’s become just a piece of fabric. For all the ideals and symbolism of it, I am proud. But what the fabric has been used for, at times, I am not proud. When it’s declared the US is the leader of the free world, I can’t help but feel a sadness. We, like others, have blood on our hands. We are no more noble than any others. We have achieved great things. We have created opportunities for all men and am glad for this. Having traveled to some countries, I have in many ways become glad for where I live. But I feel like in some ways we’re no different.
I have feared expressing many views on this matter. It’s not my goal or wish to piss on the graves of those who have willingly and unwillingly given their lives for this country. It’s not my goal to say you shouldn’t be proud of our country. My goal is merely to present the idea of brotherhood. I believe I must love my neighbor, whoever they may be. If he’s wearing a peace ribbon or armed with a dynamite vest, my ideal must be lived out. Part of me believes caring for others can be influential beyond just a Sunday sermon or a nice speech at an election rally. Another part of me, I’ve lost hope in people. I’ve begun to think we have been lost to the idea that says “yeah, but” to the high ideals. Does brotherhood matter? I believe so.
When I sing “God bless America”, I pray that it wouldn’t mean the harming of others in the process.