Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life And Love: Lessons Learned From 9/11

10 years ago today, the Twin Towers and Pentagon were attacked, and things have been different for the US, and much of the world, ever since.

For the past decade, the meaning of this event has been debated and discussed at length, with some elements of our political factions politicizing the tragedy and some elements capitalizing on the attacks in order to further their own agendas. Whether justified or not, 9/11 has lead to two wars for our country and changed the political landscape of Washington and elsewhere. Even now, politicians and pundit make use of that day to launch themselves into the limelight (or, in Sally Kern's case, sell books).

9/11-- three otherwise meaningless numbers-- as a word has taken on a complex and meaningful soul, being a catchphrase now to stand for complicated feelings and ideas. 9/11 for some means "terrorism." 9/11 for some means "take action." 9/11, for most of us, means "tragedy," and that, to me, is what today really means.

Today is no longer, for me, a day that I use to justify or explain our country's actions. It was ten years ago, after all, and many of the perpetrators of that dastardly attack have been brought to justice, to include the mastermind of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. Did his death finish the saga started by his choice to murder thousands of Americans (and foreign nationals at the site of the attacks)? No. But it did signal a change in meaning for many of us.

Today I remember the people who have died as a result of the attacks on September 11th, 2001. Many of my colleagues choose to put the gay victims of that day in a position of prominence, and I don't fault them. People like Mychal Judge, a gay FDNY chaplain who died administering Last Rites to a victim in the Towers hold a special place in my heart. No-one can argue that Mark Bingham, the gay passenger on United Flight 93 who helped to crash the plane that was destined to kill many more, is a hero. Today is indeed a time to remember them.

I want to remind everyone to remember those that have died in the conflicts since that day. After all, had not bin Laden slaughtered thousands of innocents in order to terrorize the West, a man I knew named Joe Nolan would likely not have been killed in an IED attack. His story is not unique. Many Americans, Iraqis, citizens of Afghanistan, and countless others have died in the conflicts wrought by the War on Terror, and they deserve mention.

So, today, go to a memorial if you choose, or stay at home and think. But, please, today is not a time for divisive rhetoric or politicized grandstanding. Today is merely this: Ten years ago today, a lot of people died and it was really really sad. Since then, thousands more have died and that's even sadder. Honor those people, respect their deaths, give thanks for their sacrifices, and most of all? Just be good to each other.

For in the end, that's what went wrong ten years ago today. People turned aside from their essential humanity and decided to hurt, maim, and kill. That day, and in the years since, many people have chosen to express their rage, dissatisfaction, and malcontent through the unforgiving recourse of war and death, and that is the real tragedy.

So be kind to each other, love each other, and have peace with each other, friends. Life is really short, and because of 9/11, many of us no longer get the luxury of love and peace. But never fear, friends, these simple extensions of compassion are unassailable to the tenets of hatred and murder.

So that's what I learned from 9/11, so long ago. I went to war because of the tragedy, and it has taken ten long years for me to understand this simple and invaluable lesson: We are all human, and we do our human family grave injustice if we resort to violence, hatred, bigotry, and merciless war.

Peace, friends. Peace to you and yours, and peace to the souls of those who have passed.

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