Everyone not in their early teen years or younger clearly remembers where they were ten years ago today. For those in their late sixties or older, it was the second time they experienced the horror of our nation being suddenly attacked, resulting in thousands of deaths. For the rest of us, it was a first, and we could not even imagine anyone daring to attack the US.
At the same time, though, there was a sense of déjà vu while watching television as the towers burned and collapsed. We had often seen such scenes in movies. Still, the horror got through, and continues.
Later, we learned of the heroes of 9-11, those who gave their lives for others-firemen, policemen, Father Mychal Judge, who has been called the saint of 911 and others. We commiserated with their families as we watched some of the over three thousand funerals and memorial services. Then, we became the attackers.
The truths behind how we invaded and why we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan are still somewhat vague, perhaps, What is not at all vague is that almost 3,000 American civilians were killed in the 9-11 attacks. In return, we have killed just about one million of Iraq’s and Afghanistan civilian populations. Somehow, though, that does not shock and horrify us. We have become inured to the notion of our country dropping bombs every time some country harms us, or even merely displeases us. It does not matter which party is in control of administering our responses. It is just what we do, without even much reflection.
We are so out of touch with our souls and consciences that while we are attacking and killing, many among us want to claim that we are a Christian nation, founded upon Christian principles and that, as such, we are exceptional. When we respond with a 300 to 1 overkill, that’s ok, because we are American Christians, and those we kill are not. In fact, some of them are barely human—they are Muslims!
Our national lack of reflection on and awareness of our sinfulness shocks me more than do the attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon. Every time we react to an audacious insult or injury, we feel a need to attack and even kill someone—anyone. Do we not realize that repeating the same failed behavior over and over again is called insanity, and not Christianity? Who remembers the reaction in the past when anyone might hint that ours is a sick society? Defensiveness has never revealed truth. Only open reflection can. That is something we just do not do. Does any nation?
How many 9-11’s have we instigated? How have we justified them? National interest, national security. Has it ever been different? Will it ever be? Apathy and indulgence are among our biggest sins. When and how should we confront our sin? How do we get our politicians to move from acting like they are playing at some sport where all that matters is winning and losing to growing up and moving beyond self interest for the good, even the survival of the whole world? We have to demand it. And keep on demanding it.