Monday, September 12, 2011
On September 11, 2001, I was 6 months pregnant with my first child. It was a crystal clear morning and the sun was streaming into the bedroom through the east-facing window. I was warm, cozy, and content. It was about 7:00 AM and my husband's work phone rang. His boss occasionally would call before 8:00, but not often. As I stirred, I could hear a seriousness in my husband's voice in the other room, and then I heard him flip on the news. We didn't watch news a lot, much less while talking to someone on the phone, so it did strike me as odd. But I figured it was nothing, so rolled back over, snuggled in, and tried to go back to sleep for a few more minutes.
When my husband hung up the phone, he came in and said, "You need to get up and see this. Planes just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, and into the Pentagon. This is really bad." I shot out of bed, and together we watched the footage play over and over. We stood there, arms around eachother, watching in complete disbelief. It took a little while for it to sink in. Not much was spoken. My husband went back and forth, trying to decide whether to go into work for the day or not (his boss had given him the option). I told him I wanted him to stay because I was scared, but he felt like he wanted to go in.
I had a haircut and eyebrow waxing appointment later that day, and considered cancelling, but then decided that I wouldn't give whoever did this the satisfaction of stopping America or paralyzing me with fear. So I threw on my khaki maternity pants and blue and white striped maternity tee and headed out in my white Ford Festiva. (Yes, for a period of my life, I drove a tin can.) The roads were nearly empty. It was somber and eerie, even though it was a beautiful, sunny day without a cloud in the sky. Normally a salon is a lively place, but the only noise I heard the whole time was news updates coming from a small radio in the corner. A few words were spoken here and there, and a few eyes were misted up once or twice, but mostly we just listened and tried to process it all.
The rest of the day was pretty much a blur. I do, however, remember calling my dad that night and crying, telling him how scared I was to bring my child into such an uncertain and scary world. I was so heartbroken that this would be the world my son would know; a world very different from the safe and secure quintessential Americana I grew up in. I knew his world would be a "new" kind of world, and not a kind of "new" I wanted for him.
In March, when George W. Bush declared the War on Terror, I was on the bandwagon. As much as I have always disliked war and everything it stands for, this time I felt like it was warranted, justified, and necessary. There was clearly a very bad person heading up a very bad establishment of terror who needed to get flushed out, along with all his cronies and suspected cronies. I didn't care at that point who got caught in the crossfire, I just wanted justice for my people! I wanted terror gone from this world. I wanted "safe and normal" back, and by any means necessary! If they were going to come and kill our people, they had another thing coming! We were Americans, we deserved justice, and we were coming for them! I lauded our youth who were bravely signing up to go fight for our cause. I saw them as heroes, the bravest of the brave. And their cause was noble, the most noble there is.
As the war picked up momentum, the words "weapons of mass destruction," "war on terror," "terrorism," "terrorist," "Osama bin Laden," "Taliban," "Muslim," "Islam," "Middle East," etc. constantly on the news served as a constant reminder that what we were doing was right and justified. We were fighting the "bad guys" for our own justice, and to protect the rest of the world, too.
Then, in time, we also decided to go to war in Iraq. Our focus shifted off of bin Laden and Afghanistan and more of our troops deployed. Nobody really took issue with that though because the War on Terror became business as usual. It wasn't war on a country, it was war on terror, and if we had to go into other countries to get the job done, then so be it.
But over time, with fewer results, more political and global hostility, more violence, and growing fear, hatred, and disrespect of Middle Easterners and the Islamic religion (I'm a Christian myself, but believe that all people and their beliefs deserve respect), my faith and support in these wars began to dwindle. I began to realize that maybe, just maybe, we weren't helping the problem with our wars and occupancy of the middle east, but rather exascerbating it. Maybe we were, to an extent, bringing this upon ourselves.
I know that sounds very "unamerican," but hear me out. What happened on 9/11 was horrible. Horrible! My heart breaks for those who lost loved ones that day, and for all the families who have servicemen and women they will never see again this side of heaven. I am not minimizing anyone's pain, or saying that those our troops aren't extremely brave individuals. Because they are. They absolutely are! But for those who are willing to look into our pre-9/11 history in the Middle East - for those who are willing to look past our own pain, contempt, and fears - and look at the broader scope, we have to accept that this shouldn't have been so unsuspected, and we are not blameless in all this.
You've heard the saying, "It takes two to tango," right? Its like that. Neither of us - America or the Middle East - are blameless in all this. And its impossible to say who "started it." We have occupied and toted guns in their countries for decades. Not a decade - since 9/11 - decades. We already waged a war on the Middle East in the late 1980's/early 1990's. Yes, "they" were the ones who killed us without warning on our own soil on September 11, 2001. But we can't pretend like we weren't poking the bear for a while before then.
If we're open-minded enough to put ourselves in "their" shoes, just imagine for a minute what it would be like. I read an article a year or so back - I can't find it now though, darn it - that said in one of the most populated Iraqi cities, there is a saturation of 1 American troop to every 7 civilians. That would be the equivalent of 1 soldier to police just my family of 5 and the old couple that lives next door! I don't know about you, but that seems excessive to me. I'm pretty sure that would tick me off!
So imagine you're living in your country, minding your own business, and then a foreigner walks past your house with a gun. Then another. Then another. They're here in the name of liberty, justice, democracy, freedom, and safety by way of elimination of your dictator and/or dangerous religious extremist(s). No matter their intentions though, I can only imagine, as a citizen, you would want them gone so you can live your life without constantly having to watch your back, right?. So, your life and your country are far from perfect, but you're probably more comfortable with the problems of your own country/governance, than having others from across an ocean coming in and getting involved. And then, what if you were a ruthless dictator or religious extremist? Then you'd be really, really chapped about now, and you want to do something ruthless and extreme, right?
So, they did.
Again, I am not minimizing 9/11, our fallen soldiers, or trying to show any disrespect toward those currently serving. Nor am I trying to say 9/11 was America's fault. These extremists made their own choices to kill thousands of people, and even the majority of their own countrymen thought it was heinous and tragic. But I still don't like the notion that we were, or still are, blameless in all this. Not all of our actions - past or present (and I'd venture to say, or future) - are with good intent.
Like most other Americans, I did breathe a sigh of relief when bin Laden was killed. But I think its tasteless to celebrate anyone's death. It was tasteless when terrorists rejoiced on 9/11, and it was tasteless when Americans rejoiced over the death of bin Laden. (Some of the things I saw/read on Facebook for the 72 hours or so following his death made me so angry that I actually didn't log in for 2 days.)
So as I reflect on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I have quite an array of thoughts and feelings. I will always remember September 11, 2001 vividly, and have a heavy heart for the thousands of people who died that day (and service men and women who have since) and their families. That won't ever go away.
But I am not plastering my Facebook page with 9/11 sentiments, pictures, and "God Bless America's" because I don't believe that God likes or supports any war - not even this one. And I just cannot pretend that America hasn't played a part in all this, because like it or not, admit it or not, we have.
But when all is said and done, I don't even care who "started it." I only care that it ends. I just want a world where I can raise my children without a culture of fearmongering, injustice, violence, and dischord. I think that's what every one of us around the world want. But you can't cure violence with violence, or injustice with injustice. Of that I am certain.