Sunday, September 10, 2006

7. We can still be...

Shortly after 9/11/2001, I wrote the following article for the University Daily Kansan at KU. For one reason or another it was never published. At the time, I was somewhat opimistic of the possibility of good coming from the attacks. Perhaps someday, it will be part of a vision to a more hopeful future for our country...

David Grummon
"Why should I be proud of America?" a friend asked me after September 11. I thought a lot about the question. Sure, we call America the "Leader of the Free World," and the "Land of Opportunity," but we also know our nation has a dark history. America was born a racist and divided land, giving only white landowning males voting rights, while thousands languished in slavery. Our leaders relocated and decimated hundreds of Native American populations. Even after slavery ended, Jim Crow laws made African Americans second class citizens. During World War II, our government hustled Japanese Americans into internment camps.
We’re the only nation to use the atomic bomb on civilians. We sometimes supported ruthless dictatorships to win the Cold War. More recently, we have enforced human rights when it served our interests while turning a blind eye to abuses by our allies.
So how can I still pledge my allegiance to our flag, or sing "I’m proud to be an American"?
Pretty easily, actually, despite the sins of our forefathers. Our history’s not entirely dark. We’ve saved the world from global tyranny more than once. We’re among the world’s largest contributors of humanitarian aid. We’ve changed the world in many positive ways in the last century.
I’m proud of many recent acts of bravery by Americans. Not enough can be said of New York City firemen and police during 9/11, nor the hundreds of volunteer workers who searched for survivors nor the average Americans who fought to retake control of a highjacked airplane, sacrificing themselves to save others.
But America’s true greatness is neither defined by the past, nor by bravery in crisis. Our greatest pride in America should come from the promise of its future. This is what really sets us apart. With each generation and every challenge, America is always becoming more American. We learn from past mistakes and struggle to reach the promise we call the American Dream.
That struggle hasn’t been easy. Usually, calamity and upheaval have pushed us to become a better country. It took the Civil War to abolish slavery and turn a loose conglomerate of states into one nation. It took the Great Depression and World War II to transform a stagnant society into the vibrant, prosperous world power which shaped the last century. It took the social upheaval of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement to make us realize, as Dr. King put it, that we had not yet reached the day when we would "live out the true meaning of our creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….’"
Over a year ago, as we sorted out our Presidential election, people accurately described America as "deeply divided." We saw enemies among each other, whether it be Government or Big Business, the religious or the non-religious, Hollywood folks or back woods folks. We found so many things to hate and divide us, our nation seemed to be falling apart.
These things don’t seem to matter as much anymore. I don’t believe God is the author of evil like we saw on 9/11, but God can transform tragedy into an opportunity for good. I think we have a chance to start over again, to learn from our mistakes, to become the nation we always wanted to be, and to get closer to the American Dream than we ever have before.
So how do we reach for the American Dream in the wake of such a crisis? We should learn from our mistakes, the biggest lesson being that we cannot afford to hate anymore. Not hate towards liberals or conservatives, not other religions, not homosexuals, not Arabs, Muslims, Jews, foreigners, Hippies, Capitalists, or Tree Huggers. It’s alright to disagree—that’s democracy—but hatred gave us September 11, and Americans that engage in hatefulness now should be ashamed. Nor can we ignore injustices that create hatred. While we bring terrorists to justice, our leaders are wise to address the root causes that leave desperate people open to manipulation by madmen.
We should not let the lives lost on 9/11 fade away without meaning. Will our nation rise up against fear and terror by seeking a more perfect union, or will we continue to rip ourselves apart? Let the legacy of this tragedy be not only victory against the hatred of others, but also redemption of our own American Dream.


At 1:27 PM, Blogger Dannyboy said...

Wow! Great post! I'm glad you brought that out for the anniversary!
I like the idea of America growing and becoming more American. I just wish it wouldn't always involve violence as a catalyst (as noted in your examples).
Anyway thanks for posting that!


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