Related: Political Issues, Politics, Social Issues, Social Justice Issues

September 11: Restoring American Values


twin towers collapsingThis terrible day.  September 11.  We avert our eyes from the still-horrifying photos and try to block the memories but they are inescapable.  We remember the victims including those who are still suffering grief and illness 16 years after that terrifying morning.  Perhaps worst of all, we cannot escape the toxic effects of that awful day, the particles of hatred and fear and thirst for revenge still clotting our national body politic, an infection that has warped so much of our promise and potential as a nation.

Yes, it was an incomprehensible horror to watch the murders of nearly 3,000 people live on television, and of course we want to make sure that this nation never again suffers such a devastating attack.  But our national quest for revenge and security has warped our national character, elevating elements of fear and repression and prejudice over our once-noble traits of welcome, hospitality, fairness and optimism.  We accept the small degradations of our humanity in airports and the inevitable metal detectors in so many places.  Perhaps such minor intrusions on liberty are reasonable exchanges for safety.  But we also have indulged the more serious unleashing of ethnic, racial and religious hatred in the name of national security.  “See something, say something” became a call to spy on neighbors and view strangers as potentially lethal terrorists.  The rise of a national political administration on a platform of banning Muslims and restricting immigration and deporting Dreamers and coddling white supremacy is one of the toxic consequences of that terrible day.

What we have lost as a nation is at least partially recoverable if we can shake loose from the depression and despair and rage that September 11 inflicted on the national psyche.  But we can only heal those wounds and move on with our recovery if we set some reasonable boundaries for our social and political behaviors and expectations.  We will never be secure if we continue to antagonize and taunt other people on the basis of their religion, national origin, ethnicity, language, culture.  Demonizing “the other” because they are Muslims or immigrants or speak other languages or come from certain countries only inflames the real terrorists and feeds the hatred that keeps this endless state of fear alive.  The demonization of “the other” spills over into our domestic lives in the ongoing crisis of racism and the rise of white supremacy once more, an infection that certainly pre-dates September 11, 2001, but whose recent manifestation is surely aggravated by the climate of pervasive racial and ethnic suspicion and hatred rippling out from that terrible day.

Americans must get a grip on this national sickness.  We are all entitled to our political opinions and policy disagreements, to be sure, but we should be united against racial and ethnic hatred and oppression.  We cannot liberate ourselves from the demons of September 11 unless and until we restore our national belief in the fundamental principles on which this nation was founded — that all people are created equal, that everyone is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Let us remember September 11 by rededicating ourselves to the values of equality, justice and freedom for all.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: