This past Tuesday, students came to class in a state of shock. Not the shock induced by a pop quiz the shock of a country in turmoil. The news spread quickly. The details were fuzzy, but the magnitude of the disaster was devastatingly clear.
Two hijacked passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Center’s twin towers. An additional plane destroyed part of the Pentagon. A fourth plane crashed 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The death toll is estimated to reach the thousands.
What can we make of the horrific events of September 11, 2001?
A Hollywood spectacle? No. This was not the result of blockbuster studio wizardry.
A skillful terrorist attack? Without a doubt.
The start of World War III? The fear is present, but there’s one problem for seekers of military justice… we do not know who is responsible for the attacks. Amidst the confusion, one thing is certain. The terrorists sent a crippling message: Wake up America.
Wake up to the injustices not only outside our country, but those that inhabit our own land, from embedded racism to social alienation.
Wake up to our aggressive national bullying which intimidates but also stirs anger and hostility.
Wake up to the harsh reality that we are not invincible. This country may be the world’s strongest superpower, but it is all the more vulnerable for it.
Americans are brought up with the vigorous notions of “good guys” and “bad guys.” But the distinction isn’t always night and day. America, for all its democratic efforts, has repeatedly acted in a fashion anything but “good.”
From the overlooked, systematic slaughter of Native Americans to the harrowing Japanese internment camps of World War II, history shows that America’s fear and misunderstanding (or was that racism?) can lead to actions of disgrace.
Other events outside this country, such as the CIA’s involvement in the 1973 military coup of Chile’s government (which occurred on, oddly enough, 9/11/73) or the mass genocide of Rwandans that took place under the United States’ nose in 1994, paint equally compelling pictures of America’s shame.
We didn’t deserve this tragedy. We just shouldn’t be surprised that anyone would want to mess with us.
Many of us have friends and family living near the attack scenes. It is very possible that you or someone you know lost a loved one in Tuesday’s attacks. In this time of discontent, the victim’s families and friends need our prayers and our support. Our hearts are with them and so should our actions. Donating blood to the Red Cross (www.pleasegiveblood.org) is one way of making a difference.
Countless questions remain. If and when the answers are revealed, they must not be ignored. They must act, like this entire trauma, as tools to protecting the people of both this nation and the entire world so no such heinous acts reoccur.