A NATION GRIEVES
September 11, 2002
A year ago today, I awoke suddenly a little before 6:A.M. my time (which is 9:A.M. Eastern time) with feelings of extreme unrest, of a kind of inexplicable dread, a sense of alarm I couldn’t explain. I arose and started the coffee, unable to shake the feelings or explain them. A short while later, the phone rang. The distraught, shaking, and excited voice of my mother fled into my ear like a covey of alarmed birds. Slowly, the message sunk in. The rest is history.
On that fateful day, 9-11, 2001, we felt outrage, intense shock, anger, horror, disbelief, and a sudden realization -- an unavoidable recognition -- of our own vulnerability and complacency. The reality was almost beyond comprehension. We could only stare in shocked horror as it unfolded before our very eyes. All of us felt the sudden rush of intense need to reach out to our loved ones, to have them close, to know they were OK. Simultaneously, we felt a strong need to do something, to act, to respond in an effective way and, for most of us, there was nothing we could do and so, on top of the deep pain and sorrow we felt, we also had to suffer the pain of feeling helpless, useless to those who were suffering and dying. It was overwhelming.
As the initial shock subsided, many of us began to recognize or remember the true meaning of the word that for so long has been "politically incorrect": patriotism. For the first time in the lives of most of us, we suddenly realized what that really is. For most of us, it surged though our veins at the sight of flags flying everywhere -- something that had come to be scoffed at except on certain special occasions. We heard the sound of "God Bless America" being sung everywhere and it brought a lump to our throat, tears to our eyes. The tears were for all of those who were lost or whose lives were irreconcilably changed on that day and they were for all of us, Americans everywhere; and they were for ourselves, for the loss and the hurt we all felt so deeply. We had tears in our eyes and love and appreciation in our hearts for all that we’ve come to take for granted in this wonderful country we call "home." Freedom took on a new meaning.
September 11, 2001, was a turning point for this country and, in more subtle ways, for the entire world. An act of war, war of the most hideous form, terrorism, had been committed on this continent, on this soil, on the Sacred Turtle Island itself, for the first time since the American Revolution. The invincible superpower of the world had been brought to her knees by the act of a few men without names, without faces, without a clear national connection. It shook the whole world. It woke us up. The whole world stood watching in shocked horror and dismay as Americans wept and picked up the pieces as best we could.
One year later, now past the shock, the anger, and the awakening of our cohesiveness as a country, we can at last weep. We can at last grieve. We can at last acknowledge and feel that deep and abiding sorrow and loss and pain that has lived within us all these past twelve months. We can let our tears flow for all to see, we can let our love -- love of country, love of one another, love of neighbors, love of God, love of all humanity -- flow freely outward.
We can weep for the devastation, the lives lost, the lives forever and dramatically altered, the tragedy upon tragedy that occurred that day -- in New York, in Pennsylvania, in Washington, DC -- and in the lives and hearts of us all. We can weep for the genocide, the mass murders, the famine and disease in Africa. We can weep for and at last come close to understanding the daily lives of Palestinians, Israelites, and Afghanistans who have suffered the devastation of war and terrorism for over 50 years. We can weep and grieve for the terrorism , genocide, and ridiculous political realities and prejudices of the Bosnian conflict. We can weep and grieve for the other nations who have suffered horrible acts of terrorism and senseless slaughter, sometimes inflicted by one’s own countrymen. We can weep and grieve for our own perpetration of genocide and horrible prejudices, some of which still exist, against our own beloved Native Americans, and for the horrible and painful truth of enslavement imposed on those of color in this country, the impacts of which have yet to go away or be resolved. The list is endless. It’s impossible to list all of the atrocities, the tragedies, that we need to grieve about; they are too numerous to list in a short essay: Tibet, Korea, Viet Nam, Japan, South America, World Wars, and on and on and on.
This one day in history, 9-11-01, brought all of these painful memories to the surface again and rudely awoke us from our daydreams, self interests, and clever avoidance devices. America needs to grieve. America needs to weep. All of these painful realities can now be recognized, acknowledged, and grieved. And we must do this. We must look at these realities, squarely, without our preferred filters, with our eyes wide open, and accept our own participation in those realities through direct involvement or indirectly through the implied consent of complacency, aloofness, and collusion or, even worse, our own arrogance and prejudices, prejudices we hold almost sacred even though we don’t admit them. Extremes of any kind -- religious, political, socio-cultural, racial, economic -- are a insidious form of the perpetuation and justification of prejudices. Discrimination of any kind, directed at any person, group, or way of life, is an act of war, because if allowed to continue it will, eventually, lead to war in some form or another.
9-11, 2001, was in many ways an act of Providence for all Americans. This idea angers many of us, yet we must admit there is some truth in it. It forced us to recognize that terrorism is truly terrible and that it can happen to us. It forced us to sit up and take a look at ourselves in the mirror and ask all the questions: Who am I? What do I really stand for? What does this country really stand for? What is really important? What in my life is truly valuable? How have I, personally, colluded with the culmination of events that led up to this event? Where have I failed, as a person and as an American citizen? What does it mean to be an American? What do I want it to mean? And we have to ask ourselves the other questions: Where was I when 10,000 people, 10,000, were slaughtered like animals and left to rot beside the road, by their own people, all in the space of a few days in Africa? Where was I when thousands were dying of epidemics, famine, and starvation all over the world every day? Where was I when my own freedoms were being skillfully and persistently eroded in my own country? Where was I when thousands of monks were being murdered in Tibet? Where was I when the hideous fiasco of Waco, Texas, was taking place? Where was I when Agent Orange was being sprayed on Viet Nam?
The questions are endless, endless. But we must ask them and we must strive to recognize, and accept, the full truth of our answers. And when we have answered them and faced and accepted our truths, whatever they may be, then we must weep; we must acknowledge and release that deep inexplicable inner pain and sorrow so many of us have been experiencing. America must grieve so that she can grow.
Before this event, Americans vacillated on the issue of world peace. None of the compelling reasons for peace had really soaked into the American psyche, war was a way of life, considered an unpleasant "reality." This terrible event suddenly forced us to think about it, to understand that war is truly ugly, and mostly unnecessary. This event triggered a ground swell movement in this country, in fact, all over the world to some degree, toward Peace. Peace for all mankind. Peace all over the world, every where. This Peace Energy is now surging through the Soul of the World from the Heart of America and it is unstoppable. It has already begun. It will have its growing pains, its ups and downs, but it will become a Force to be recognized, a Force that cannot be overcome.
It is a movement whose time has come and it comes from the heart of the People. No politician or world leader will stand before it; no dictator will withstand it; no political, social, or religious dogma will prevail against it. No nation, no matter how powerful, will come before it in the hearts of the People. This surging force of Peace Energy is first taking hold in the hearts, minds, and feelings of the People, where it has already grown to the point of critical mass. Soon it will ignite itself within the media -- the press, radio and TV programs, commercials, movies. As people begin to demand truth and integrity in reporting and programming, as they begin to voice opposition to a mindset of war for the sake of war, war as an economic or political necessity, as they begin to shout a resounding "NO!" to leaders who propose acts of war, the world will begin to take notice and the change will begin.
The leadership of this movement will not come from the usual sources of politicians, diplomats, and charismatic world leaders or religious leaders and organizations, although all of these will try to project themselves as such. The leaders, the movers and shakers, of this Peace movement will come from the streets, from bartenders and school teachers, from cab drivers and medical professionals, from secretaries and truck drivers, and from the true spiritual leaders (which is not synonymous with religious leaders) of our lives and world. Already, recognized spiritual leaders and members of the medical community and others are coming forward, volunteering to spear-head regional or world-wide Peace movements in an organized effective manner. The seed has been planted. It now begins to germinate.
The next hundred years will be the most meaningful and momentous yet as true and lasting Peace, still an embryo in the womb of the world’s population, comes into being and becomes a way of life all over the world. There are no other solutions.
Music by Danny Many Horses Rael