What America means to me

I remember waking up to the horror of September 11, 2001 by the sound of my mother screaming my name from the bottom of the stairwell.

“We’re under attack!”

Foggy brained, having slept in my jeans from the night before working as an unloader at Walmart I sat up.

What? Are we under attack?

Are the neighbors invading? There’s a zombie apocalypse? Has Canada become sick of our shit?

“They’ve hit the World Trade Center and the White House.”

Who? Who has hit the what?

Okay. I was up and half asleep worked my way downstairs to figure out what was going on.

I walked into the living room where my dad was watching the news when the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

“Dad, what movie are you watching.”

“It’s not a movie.”

My life changed that day as we watched the news. As we watched the scene change from New York City to The Pentagon as another passenger jet had driven into the side leaving a gaping black hole of destruction and smoke.

We watched as both towers in New York crumbled and fell upon the inhabitants.

I fell asleep to CNN that night and woke the next day with the news media at the scene of what had now been declared an “act of terror”.

America, the beautiful, had been devastated by the loss of over 3,000 of our citizens of all walks of life, in just a few minutes.

I was in shock. The sound of airplanes overhead (fighter jets patrolling the skies) for the very first time in my life scared me. Terrified me.

Later that night, as the shock wore off, after watching hours of grown men and women holding pictures of their loved ones near the site of the World Trade Center begging anyone that would listen to them with tears in their eyes, I wept.

I knew a war was coming. Months later, I signed up for the Army.

I served for the loss of those at the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and in the Pennsylvania field. I served for those whose lives were taken aboard those aircraft that had been hijacked by 15 people from a far-off place. And I served to protect my home, my family, and all free peoples of the world.

There were a lot of people dead. The enemy hit soft targets. And, in their hatred of us, there was a sort of universal equality in their decision that is ironic. To those 15 hijackers, “All Men (universally speaking) were indeed created equal”. They were all American. Those 15 men, in just a few hours, managed to do what this country couldn’t do in over 200 years of this nation’s existence.

It didn’t matter if they were white, black, gay, straight, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or Jew. It didn’t matter of their victims were disabled, saintly, criminal, a banker, an investor, or a janitor staff in those buildings.

Afterward, there was a sense of unity throughout the country. Rural areas rose funds, donated blood, and volunteers from all across the country went to Ground Zero to do the work in a pit of absolute horror.

In these days of national unrest, civil disobedience, inhumane treatment of non-citizens, an economy that serves no human purpose, and a very aroused republic, I can’t help but think of America’s future.

There’s a lot of fear among the populace. Fear of ‘other’ and fear of “Tyranny.”

I can’t help but wonder if Osama Bin Laden, while dead thanks to the actions of the Navy Seals and President Obama’s orders, is closer to winning posthumously while the citizens of this country and citizens all over the western world have started to turn on each other.

Politics of discord, and of hate, have risen up from the depths of a hell we thought we’d banished them to 60 years ago. Things are being said about people and done to people we thought as a country we’d put aside. Was it a lack of vigilance? Was it a lack of watchfulness? Was it trading liberty for security? Or was it all of these things?

I am unsure. All I know is that America doesn’t feel like the country I lived in prior to 9/11.

Today, there is a necessary and terrible question concerning foreign influence upon our Chief Executive, President Donald Trump who seemed to skate right into the White House despite all the things he’s said about fellow citizens, journalists, POW’s, women, the disabled, and his love affair with tyrants all over the world.

Yet, despite all of that, despite the white-hot conversation taking place in the marketplace of ideas, on the news, across social media, and in our homes today. I realize something I should have realized when I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center tower.

That America is an idea. And ideas once put forth, cannot be destroyed.

It can’t be destroyed by terrorism. It can’t be destroyed by hate, by fear, nor by tyranny. Nor can it be destroyed by referring to its guardians, The Media, as “Fake News.”

Our founders, while imperfect in all ways imaginable, lit a match that caused an inferno to sweep the globe. Ideas of liberty, freedom, equality, while not yet fully realized at any time in this country is the shining city on the hill that we strive for. Those ideals are to Americans as Canaan was to the wandering children of Israel. A land of Milk, and Honey, a land of safety and prosperity, and peace.

America is about hope. It’s hoped that those immigrants who seek our shores, and our borders, who cross thousands of miles in unrelenting heat, toils, and snares, see. It’s a promise that they can see that sometimes even we, as Americans, are blind to.

This great apocalypse that is Donald Trump, this great “uncovering” of the truth, has exposed a country terrified of shadow and uncertainty that he capitalized on.

Try as he may, however, he nor others like him, nor foreign interests in our electoral system, can ever make that shining city on the hill grow dark as long as we hold the truths that were declared self-evident that all men are created equal, in our hearts.

That is what America means to me.

Violence and Scars ( a call for passive resistance)

 

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Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

I remember the day 9/11 happened. It’s something that is seared into my memory.
The whole day I was in shock.
I fell asleep to CNN and woke up to it still playing on the television with picture after picture, replay after replay of the hijacked airliners and the damage they’d done.
The body count.
People standing outside of The World Trade Center weeping, begging God and passerby’s to deliver them their loved ones.
The next the numbness of it all wore off and there I was, nineteen years old, weeping into the arms of my sister.
I was scared.
Knowing all those people died, it broke my heart.
I remember asking my mom if she thought there were ‘saved’ people in those buildings.
The other day, with Charlottesville I sat down and cried again. I’m thirty six years old and later on as I prayed the ‘Our Father’ with my husband – clinging for some kind of comfort – when I got to ‘Thy Will Be Done’ I choked it out.
I’ve lived a long life.
Not in years but in experiences.
I am a survivor of fundamentalism.
I was raised in the belief that I had no inherent ‘good.’
That the world had no inherent good.
I was beaten. Often. The religion was rigorous and I often rebelled against it.
I knew as a kid there was something inherently wrong with them.
I couldn’t put my finger on it – I mean, the people we talked to were polite, they dressed nice, the churches were nice, they drove nice cars….and in a lot of ways, it wasn’t the worst of circumstances.
Until it was.
And when it was, baby, it was a honey.
I’ve seen and been through things too bizarre to put in 9 books let alone one.
My sisters, can even top my experiences.
Those experiences have put a scar in me, on my heart, so deep it cuts into my very being into the foundation of who I am as a person.
And if I am not careful, those scars, get infected.
I have to be vigilant.
There is an old Sunday School song that goes, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear. Oh be careful little ears what you hear. For the Lord above is looking down – in love – oh be careful little ears what you hear.
It’s in what I hear – that requires the most vigilance.
Like someone who’s had a weather related injury, such as heatstroke, or frostbite or someone who’s come in contact with poison ivy – I’ll always be susceptible to the tone of a message than the actual message itself.
Passion, rhetorical flourish, and charisma are the cornerstone of any good speaker. It’s not really in what they say, that makes us listen, it’s all in the delivery.
Think of your favorite speaker, preacher, politician, or public persona.
Don’t listen to what they say, give that a rest, listen to how they say it.
There’s a lot of umph to their message, a schtick they use, they’re just like you….but they’re not. If they are public speaking, have their starched white shirts rolled up, can deliver a speech without any reservation or nervousness, they haven’t been one of you for a very long time. Most people I know HATE public speaking.
Right now, there is a lot of talk about Nazis and their alter ego – Antifa.
There’s a lot of passionate rhetoric being tossed around by both sides. Promises of violence. Actual acts of violence and confrontations.
A whole lot of passion.
We should always stand against fascism. Always. There’s no room in a free society for authoritarianism. Period. White supremacy and it’s ugly older brother antisemitism and ugly older sister bigotry – ruin and destroy – and have never once created a thing.
It’s led nations into ruins and took its people along for the ride.
And while there is something in the idea of standing up to a Nazi and ‘giving them their just desserts’ violence never creates anything. Like racism and bigotry – violence only begets more violence.
I’ve seen so many people on social media talking about ‘getting ready ‘ for some kind of showdown with the evil that is Nazi’s and no doubt – they are evil.
Yet these same people are unaware, or maybe they are aware, that they are slowly becoming being pushed into the very thing they’re trying to fight against. They become the other side to the same coin.
I feel like a fool when I quote this man, because everyone does who try to drive home a point. Bigots have used this guy, which isn’t too far a stretch since a racist will use Jesus and the Bible to justify their deep rooted hate. But Dr. Martin Luther King stood against much worse, so much worse, and was far more effective in his methodology of passive resistance than any armed conflict can ever accomplish.
War is not about success no matter what General stands up and delivers his speech ‘to the boys’.
War is about failure.
It’s about people failing to come together and work out their issues.
It becomes mindless.
To commit an act of violence against another human being, you have to work yourself up into a state of mindless rage and once that line is crossed – there’s no coming back.
Ask the vets who’ve come back from Iraq and Afghanistan how they feel.
I am not telling you to march. I am not telling you not to resist. I am not telling you to just let them hit you or hurt you. No. You have a right to defend yourself from bodily harm.
All I am asking you to do – is listen not to what your side says – listen to how they’re saying it. Listen to the words they use, not in a way that convinces you to join their cause, but what they are calling for.
The French know about this.
While their revolution was probably 100 percent just. It became a mindless stream of violence and death because people couldn’t back out of the frenzy they found themselves in.
There were so many different factions inside of that event that when someone starts to talk about the French Revolution – you are 100 percent justified in asking, “Which one?”
Are we facing some dark times? Yes. No doubt.
‘ The other’ regardless of where they fit, are in dire straights.
But ladies and gentlemen, there is power in numbers.
Passive resistance like Dr. Kings wasn’t very popular in America. He was murdered for it. Like Christ, he used to the parts of the society in which he lived to shame the wise. He held a mirror up to this country and let it get a good look at itself.
Sure you may face violence and worse when you stand up for what you believe in in any capacity.
But there is one sure fire way you’ll be unable to avoid it and that is by being violent yourself.
A man that lives by the sword will die by it each and every time.
Whoever got a hold of those 15 hijackers used passion to convince them 100 percent of their righteousness. The man who plowed into the crowd of protesters was 100 percent convinced of his righteousness.
The man who sucker punched his little boy, and bounced his head off a tile floor in the kitchen because they were angry, was 100 percent sure – in the heat of the moment – he was right.
Curtail your passions. Or they will destroy everything around you and trust me, there are some fates that are worse than death.

Violence is NEVER the answer. All it does is create a whole myriad and painful questions. Questions like, “Why me?”

What’s worse, is some questions then, have no good answer and because of that – there is are scars that never heal right.