Patriot’s Day is coming.
Or, as it originated: 9/11. The day known as 9/11/01 when terror struck America. It hijacked and crashed planes into the Twin Towers of New York and the Pentagon in DC. And it had unexpected side effects: it revealed what we would trade for freedom and what we would do for strangers in an emergency. It showed us our best and worst.
How it affected people may have depended on their situation. For instance, I didn’t even know what the ‘twin towers’ were. The internet was just coming into it’s own, for me and I didn’t much read the papers. The papers tend to take a news event that could be one sentence and complicate it into a page. So I rarely bothered.
But I do live in Virginia and therefore, it was pretty close to home. My Grandparents in Arlington said the house shook. My friends and I, horseback riding in a National Park were turned back as all National Parks were closed. And given how often one wished the traffic would clear up, one suddenly decided that was not entirely a good thing when it did. The streets were eerily empty.
But one thing was amazingly, brilliantly clear: the results were not what the terror seekers expected. There were indeed negative side effects. Security tightened and freedom’s compromised. War, just or not, was triggered. But so was sheer heroism and outpouring of generosity.
People sacrificed their lives to save strangers. They ended up with long term health effects after battling horror to find wounded. They gave more blood than could be used. They gave money and supplies. They came together to heal the wounds and comfort those directly affected.
Naturally there was the bad too. People wanted to blame someone and sometimes those even suspected or who looked like muslims were targeted. But even there, people stood up in resistance. The women of one Christian church rose up and wore the veil to show solidarity and support the muslim woman who were being harrassed. Interfaith groups sprang up to create mutual understanding.
Some people who don’t believe in God, say ‘where was he?” Even some who do say that. I say, he was right there. He was the wounded and the healer. He was the fireman running in crumbling buildings. He was the worker who helped a coworker escape.
God doesn’t make the bad happen, and if he allows it, it’s to remind us of the amazing good we can do when we are paying attention. We get lost in our own little problems: tomorrow’s bill, the kid’s bad grade, the frustration with a colleague. We miss how much bad we could easily prevent or the comfort we could give. It would be easier if there was more too it than money: some of us don’t know where to go to volunteer, or have the money to help. But somehow, in a big crisis those things are overcome. In the mini crisis, we often just shrug helplessly.
But we are better than that. We can be. Because: Here is a shock….GREED IS NOT PATRIOTIC. No. The self sacrifice, the reaching out to help, that was patriotic. So let’s stop pretending patriotic wears an elephant or a donkey badge, or runs a big corporation. It’s not sacrificing freedom for security either. Patriotic in American terms is a risk, and has been since the Revolutionary war. It’s also not getting Government do everything for us: because that gives them to much power. We don’t want them to hinder us either. We just want them to make it possible to do what needs to be done. Enable education, roads to get us to work and health care and safety laws so we are able to work without being abused for a paycheck. Food for here and from here to let our farmers have livelihoods. Finally, protection from an enemy who would destroy our freedoms: including themselves and their big corporations when they get too big headed to fit through the average office door.
Wake up on Patriot’s Day America. Be what you say. Real Patriots. People who care about each other because it’s the American thing to do.