Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Thoughts on 9-11

Today my oldest daughter went to school.  She was dressed in her red, white, and blue.  I wondered if they would talk about what happened twelve years ago.  They didn't, at least not in her kindergarten class.

I did not want to tell her.  It is too awful.  I do not want her to live in fear.  So I didn't.  I just told her that today we are celebrating many people who have made sacrifices so that we can live in our wonderful country.

I've been thinking about sacrifice.  And forgiveness.  And anger.

Twelve years ago, some evil men made it their business to attack our proud country.  They believed that by bringing down symbols of military power and economic prosperity, they could bring our country to its knees.  American heroes stood up and astounded the world.  When the towers were falling, our heroes ran toward the destruction to help.  When passengers realized they were on a weapon aimed at DC, they did not turn into helpless captives, they died protecting the target.  A lot of people died that day.  A lot of families will never be the same.

America did not fall even an inch.  We stood a little taller the next day, heartbroken but proud.  It turns out that money is not what makes America proud.  Nor is military prowess, though indeed we are proud of our military.  The pride of America is hard to pin down.

Our military fights to protect the right to speech, even when the speech in question is given by pacifists.  Like siblings, we fight and argue and call each other names, but don't you dare think that just because we are attacking each other you can.  In America, when see people who need help and we argue about how to help, not whether or not we should.  In America, we have a particularly arrogant group who call themselves a Church- and when the Westboro Baptists speak their hatred, we let them- but we are proud to report that in classic American style, a group of bikers ride around the funerals to protect the mourners from hearing the ugliness.

We are diverse.  We do not have diversity ironed out neatly- discrimination happens.  But we try.  We are not getting it right, but it is absolutely a priority.  We aim high.

The majority of us are Christian, a source of great pride to some.  Still greater pride though, is in our insistence that a majority cannot dominate.  Did you see the video about the soldier who stood up to vicious discrimination?  "That's the reason I wear the uniform- so anyone can live free in this country."

That is the America I am proud to claim.

It is terribly easy to hate in the abstract, but it is hard to hate people you know.

I will have to teach my daughters about what happened twelve years. They will see suffering.  They will see anger.  I will have to teach forgiveness.  Fr Barron says, "One way to practice forgiveness is to say, in regard to any hurt, insult, or injustice that has been done to you, “this is our problem,” that is to say, a problem that has to be solved both by you and by the person who has offended you.  This is not to indulge in “blaming the victim” politics or to be soft on evil, but it is a willingness to get down and do the hard work of drawing an offender back into the circle of the community.  It is a loving refusal to give up even on the wickedest of people."

We are not honoring victims of 9/11 or waving a proud patriotic banner when we spew hate toward Muslims.  In America you are free to speak.  You are free to think.  You are free to believe.  You are free to preach.

We have some big problems in this country.  We have millions of undocumented people, living in the shadows.  People go bankrupt paying for necessary medicine.  Important issues like abortion and homosexual marriage bring out the devil in all of us.  But every once in awhile, we get to stop and realize that we can have these fights because we are in a pretty awesome country.

We don't happily coexist, we disagree loudly.  That loud disagreement is at least part of the pride of America.

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