Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember...a Better Country

I am not watching any 9/11 remembrances today. I have avoided them all week. It's not that I don't care. That day of course means a lot to me, and I vividly remember where I was when the towers were struck and what that day - and the ones that followed - were like for me. I understand the need to remember, pay respect, reflect. But I don't want to dwell.

I think a lot of my discomfort is that I am mourning not just a terrible day in our nation's history, not just the lives lost and forever changed, but the change of our entire culture. I do not like my country as much as I did before 9/11. My friend Shane Harris wrote for The Washingtonian a moving reflection about what was going on in Washington on Sept. 10, 2001. I can't help but think about how things were simpler, kinder, easier. I hope I am not falling victim to rose-colored nostalgia, but I honestly feel like 9/11 was a turning point that led to many of the frustrations I now have with America.

I feel we are less civil, less educated, less proud, less knowledgeable of our rights, less trusting. I feel we are more bigoted, more polarizing, more isolated, more fearful, and quicker to blame others. In Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore asserts that the media creates the fear that galvanizes people to continue to watch media. I would argue they continue to do so, but 9/11 was a launching point to give them so much more fodder for us to fear. Our news is negative, our emotions toward each other are negative, and we are disconnected from our neighbors, other countries and cultures, and our manners.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love my country. I recognize how blessed I am to have been born here, and to have all the opportunities this country offers. I am even hesitant to post this blog, because it is playing right into the cynicism I purport to oppose. I just wish...I wish...we were more civil. I wish the news didn't depress me so much. I wish I didn't get so mad at my elected officials that I have to resist screaming at the TV. And I wish I handled it more effectively than just turning the TV off.

One positive thing about these remembrance ceremonies is that they show off the best of our country. People are proud. They are hugging each other, speaking kindly to strangers. We put a few politicians on pedestals and give them some respect for a day. We donate to charities, we weep over others' losses. We look like Americans. I just hope, I sincerely and truly hope, that these feelings will go beyond one ceremony, one day. Let's remember what our country was like 10 years ago, and try to regain a bit of that civility.

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