Monday, September 19, 2011

10 Years Later

     I know there are 1 million blogs and postings about September 11th. Here is number 1,000,001. I think I slept as poorly last September 11, 2011 as I did September 11, 2001. Over these past years, I managed to put the emotions of the day somewhere in the recesses of my mind. I had come to the point where I would pretty much drag those feelings out only for the anniversary date, and then pack them away until the next 9/11.

     I just took it all so personal. It was an event that happened in my adulthood. It scared me and altered my view on everything from parenting, to friendship, and even initially, trust. I am ashamed to say this but in the interest of transparency I will admit; In the immediate aftermath I actually found myself a little bit nervous around anyone of Middle Eastern dissent. I'm not proud of that. As an African American with parents who where in the trenches of the civil rights movement of the 1960's, I am very sensitive to prejudging and racial profiling. At the time, I was in graduate school. My classmates were extremely diverse. I met and associated with people from China, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico and all over the United States. I was very excited to have my hand in a melting pot of scholars interested in making leadership in the workplace diverse.

     We spent quite a bit of time just trying to sort through this horrible act after it occurred. I really tried to hold on to my principles and continue to deal with people on an personal level and not make sweeping judgements about groups. I talked tirelessly with intellectuals about the ambiguity of a "War on Terror" and the frustration in including an entire religious sect into an extremist minority's Jihad. I honestly think these types of candid discussions are necessary for disseminating ignorance, and the fear that is often times coupled with it.

     As I look back on my views about how I felt about people before versus after the attacks, I really don't think it's changed all that much. I still feel that all people are capable of the same loving acts or the same evil acts. Am I proud to be an American? Sometimes. I like the ideology of freedom, democracy, and equality. But we fall woefully short all to often. I don't look at the terrorists attacks as us (Americans) vs. them (Arabs) I don't see people based off of their borders, customs, traditions, or religion. People are people to me. Although we may express ourselves differently based on the previously mentioned characteristics. We all feel love, and sadness, and rage, and fear. We sometimes excel, and sometimes fail. We're sometimes good, and sometimes bad. We're not all that different. We just express ourselves differently.

     There is a patriotic phrase that I hear so often in the Mid-West. "God, Family, Country" I understand it. It's a concept that I bought into once upon a time. Certainly I strive to put God first always. Sometimes selfish ambitions or impatience impede that philosophy. But, I certainly strive to do such. My view on family has changed tremendously over the years. Family now goes so far beyond bloodline in my experiences, I can hardly recognize the definition I originally came to know. In fact, I would say that I have had an entire paradigm shift as to what family is. For me family is no longer rooted in blood or genetics. Those two factors undeniably draw and tie us to people in life. That I cannot deny. And, the emotional ties that are connected to "natural" family members is strong I must admit. However, family...that is the family that counts in my book is rooted in loyalty, and "love in action". My current definition of family now surpasses genetic factors in importance to me. And then there's "Country".  Disclaimer: I LOVE America. That being said, this is a land full of hypocrisy. We don't do a good job taking care of the most vulnerable in our society. We support dictators and tyrants in other countries, if it benefits our interest. We are becoming less educated, more greedy...I could go on but you get my point. I haven't given up though. So long as we keep our foundational principles in place, there is always hope.

     Here is a fundament shift for me that has has only strengthened since the terrorist attacks. I am more concerned with people in general. Not only people from my country. The world is my home and it is without borders. In my opinion, we have lost view of humanity outside of any group of people that we are "affiliated" with. Perhaps that's why it was ok for a group of Neo-conservatives to cheer on the death of uninsured people during the last political debate. We have lost sight of the fact that "all men were created equal". If that statement is true, then it's true for all people. Not just the people who live close to you, or agree with you, or are a part of your group.

     The invent of the world wide web, and the continued sophisticated development of social media continues to make the world a smaller place. Six degrees of separation has become five degrees or perhaps four degrees. And personally, the more I get to know people from across the globe, the more I care. They have no longer become a distant ideal, they are real people.  I hope to evolve into a progressively empathetic person who can connect, empathize with, and respect all people. I know that it may be an unpopular stance with many Americans who feel that patriotism involves specialized treatment for the people in your county. But in my opinion sanctity of life and respect for everyone should be more than a U.S. concept. In fact, I think upholding that standard is even more patriotic.

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