Everything has changed, nothing has changed Trying to write something about the events of Sept. 11, 2001, is just as hard now as it was 365 days ago. There"s little to say that hasn"t been said by thousands of others. There"s nothing which can explain the events, much less justify them. The tragedy which claimed 3,000 lives continues to shock us today. However, some things have changed for the better as a result of that horrific event, as much as anything good can come from bad. It"s not the flags, or the dreams of world domination or even the successful military campaigns of the U.S. What"s changed is that we are slightly more humane to each other now, even as our military prepares for another war. That was especially pronounced in the days immediately following the attacks. People who rarely spoke to each other rediscovered their common humanity. For a few weeks, fear brought us together. At that moment, the display of the flag was a comforting presence, a reminder that we belong to a single nation. It"s hard, in some ways, to remember what life was like prior to Sept. 11. We were a country which was still prosperous, and which had fairly recently emerged from a contested presidential election where half the country believed the other half was trying to seize power illegally. Watching videotapes from the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, before the attacks shows the media obsessed by whether Michael Jordan would return to basketball, if shark attacks were about to become an epidemic and whether the Bush tax cut would destroy the economy. That"s not so different from today"s media obsessions, which outside the war on terrorism seem to focus on stuff like American Idol, J. Lo"s weddings and whether Bush"s economic policies will further wreck the economy. When my roommate called me on the morning of Sept. 11, just after the first plane struck, I refused to believe it was terrorism. It was probably some drunk in a Cessna, I though. And as I watched in horror as the second plane struck, I figured it was the work of homegrown terrorists - would-be McVeighs and Oswalds protesting Ruby Ridge or some such thing. I wanted to believe anything other than the truth. And when the buildings collapsed, not only was I saddened for the people who gave their lives in a war they didn"t know existed, I was full of grief for what my country would become as a result of the attacks. It was a seismic shock, one which endless TV replays and analysis hasn"t lessened. And, indeed, the country has gone to a war. The reserves have been called up, the bombs have been dropped on Afghanistan and Lee Greenwood is back on TV singing "God Bless the U.S.A." Television is full of images of iconic, courageous soldiers valiantly fighting against satanic terrorists. Evildoers are being identified and targeted for murder. Brave politicians take principled stands against the use of terror. And all of those things have accuracy, but that"s not the complete story. There are equally principled people who are arguing against the use of violence as a means for resolving conflicts. And while I support the individual soldiers and wish them safety and success, our great democracy gives me the freedom to respectfully disagree with the president of the United States on his eagerness to wage war. It"s the stuff of Shakespeare, the son rising to power to complete the job his father left undone. But is it necessary to wipe entire nations off the map to avenge the mistakes of 1991 and Sept. 10, 2001? The hatreds which caused the events of Sept. 11 weren"t caused overnight; they sprang up after decades of resentment. We cannot solve the world"s problems, nor can we try to police the actions of zealots half a world away. There"s a truism that our generals always tell us that wars are going better than they actually are. What will happen if things suddenly don"t go well? Will the support for military action decline? Roughly half the people in the country are opposed to military action in Iraq. Can the president count on such shallow support when the war happens? More importantly, should we go to war when half the people or more oppose it? Even at the height of the Vietnam war, public opinion still trended in favor of the war effort. Here, our president is asking a divided country to make sacrifices for a war for which no persuasive case has been made. It"s our duty to be critical of America so it can become even better. Blind patriotism serves no one except those who would take advantage of it for their own purposes. Presidents Clinton and Bush have done a good job explaining the need to fight Al Qaeda. But only former President Clinton is counseling a measured approach to the war on terror: Get bin Laden first, then concentrate on Iraq if necessary. Sept. 11 brought great changes to this country. It"s time to move beyond the images of destruction and the blind rage which enveloped all of us. For our country to maintain its historic position as a zone of freedom and democracy, it"s up to each of us to analyze and question each move made by our government. It"s not unpatriotic to disagree with the president. And as we move further down the path to war, remember that it"s our duty to listen, really listen, to what our leaders tell us. Accept nothing blindly. Because if we don"t follow established democratic procedures during a time of crisis, we"re inviting an even bigger disaster than what occurred a year ago today.

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