September 11, 2001 is on America’s collective consciousness. A decade ago thousands lost their lives in a religiously motivated and misguided attack on what some see as a wicked culture. Those who hate America have never come to know it. What a sad commentary it is that religious belief lends its strength of conviction to those whom it has convinced that evil is righteousness and that terror is divine. It is somber to experience this tenth anniversary so close to New York City. When I ride in to work now every day I see the new World Trade Center rising, literally, from the ashes. It is a monument to what America tries to embody.
Our nation is not perfect. None is. Too easily we accept the casual relegation of various minority groups to poverty. Too easily we allow the obscenely wealthy to escape all sense of social obligation. Too easily we focus on our selves rather than our community. No, we cannot claim to be perfect. Nevertheless, we strive for an ideal that will not die.
Some have boldly claimed twentieth century notables as “the greatest generation.” I believe that praise, although deserved in a sense, to be misplaced. The greatest generation was that rag-tag group of colonial citizens who’d fled from cesspools of oppression to find freedom in a new world. They were not perfect. They oppressed and displaced Native Americans who still suffer under repressive policies that ensure the great embarrassment of their treatment will remain out of sight. The greatest generation I envision is those who, at the risk of their own lives, decreed that the world should, must contain a haven for those who cannot live without a free conscience. A place where religion, or even the very words you say or write, cannot be dictated by the government. A place where people could go on to become the putative “greatest generation”s of the future.
When I first heard about the attacks on 9/11 I was at Nashotah House. Those first moments of confusion were terrifying—our daughter had just started school and was not close enough to hold. My wife and I watched the television in sheer unbelief, tears on our faces, our lives being forever wrenched and twisted in new directions. In was a day that sobered up an entire country.
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