By Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D., Kansas City, MO —
On 911 Americans became one and the day will be earmarked in the history books as the day that changed America forever.
The shocking and horrific terrorist attack signaled to all Americans, irrespective of our race, ethnicity, religion, economic status or dwelling place – urban, suburban, or rural – that we were equally disliked and disregarded in the eyes of terrorists who hate everything about our democratic way of life.
We suddenly became one, united in our patriotic feelings and the desire to protect America and our way of life despite its imperfections. On 911 Americans became one.
Sometimes, it is amazing what it takes for different people from different walks of life living in proximity to each other to recognize the things we have in common – the things that bind us. To finally recognize that differences in skin color may not be the great divide we think it is. But, rather, other things like religion, economic disparity, a way of life often create and build the greatest chasms.
But with the events of September 11, we also have inherited an awesome burden. We must revisit, or bother to learn anew, and apply some critical lessons from history.
I am reminded of the memorable words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the nation faced another crisis. He boldly and confidently reminded the nation that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” But I am also reminded of the age-old axiom that great civilizations are rarely destroyed from external forces, but rather from weaknesses from within.
What’s notable about both pronouncements is that ignorance is often the common source of both fear and weakness. We can not afford to remain in a bubble of ignorance, peppered with misplaced arrogance or blind pride. The ramifications for our future lifestyle and that of generations to follow are simply too great. On 911 Americans became one and it needs to be lasting.
On a broader and lasting scale, terrorism will not be understood and defeated until we make a concerted effort to reduce the pervasive lack of knowledge among adults, and children alike, of emerging forces and ideologies that are harmful to our own.
It is both a local and national challenge that cut across race, ethnicity, age, gender, and socio-economic status.
As we pause this Thursday to remember and honor the ordinary citizens and heroes who lost their lives on that infamous September morning, we must also give serious thought on the ongoing obligation of those of us who were spared.
All of us. Black, white, brown, yellow, alike. On 911 Americans became one. Let us remain together
Feature Photo Credit: foreignpolicy.com