CAN WE BE BETTER?

Yesterday and Today

It was three years ago and I still remember it vividly.  I was at work starting my day and heard radio commentary about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City.  Initially, the report was a small plane. We quickly turned on the TV and just missed the live report of the second plane hitting the second tower.

I remember someone saying it was Yasar Arafat that probably planned the attack.  I remember thinking that it might have been an accident except for the second plane hitting.  I remember seeing people jumping to their death. I remember watching the towers crumble, pancake and fall live on television.  I remember my boss coming by and asking me if I was ok.

The afternoon was lost to speculation and watching the coverage.  Since I work at a newspaper, plenty of people were watching the television set up in our break-room.  Then, it all hit close to home.

Someone called The News-Gazette and said, “Your building isn’t safe” in a middle-eastern Apu-from-the-Simpson’s accent. Guess what?  Everyone freaked out.  We all ran out of the building.  Stood for two or three hours and waited for… something.  Nothing happened.

I went home that night and watched TV until 2 am.  I was scared that this was World War III.  I felt terrible for the people who died.  I really wanted something to be done in response.

The one image that stands out in my mind from the days after the World Trade Center attack is the U.S. Congress, standing on the steps of the Capitol singing “God Bless America” and saying things like “We aren’t Democrats or Republicans, we’re Americans.” For one brief moment, partisan politics and disdain for the other was set aside for a display of unity. I wished right then and there that a new example had been forged.  One that ignores partisan politics and works to make America a better, safer place to live, work and play.

Of course, that didn’t happen.

Thoughts Today

Just like I remember all the other bad things that have happened to me or to the people I love and care about, I don’t forget. The difference being that I don’t sit and dwell on them. Why? Because life goes on. The world continues to turn. People continue to die and people continue to be born.  At some point, you must keep moving on.

I realize that for a lot of people, 9/11 is a tremendous personal tragedy.  For the rest of us, we haven’t been able to go a day without 9/11, the War on Terror, and it’s would-be spin-off, the war in Iraq. We can’t ignore the threat of terrorism. We should never forget what happened on this day three years ago.  However, I’m getting a little sick and tired of it all.

I’m sick of politicians evoking 9/11, wrapping themselves in the flag, and being told by them that if I vote for their opponent, we’ll have another terrorist attack.

I’m tried of having everything blamed on 9/11. I’m tired of nearly every excuse from this administration starting with “after 9/11.”

I’m sick of the power grab this administration made in the wake of 9/11.  Department of Homeland Security sounds downright Orwellian and I don’t like it.

I’m tired of seeing these damn collectable coin ads for these silver “Freedom Dollars” that were pressed from silver recovered from the rubble of the WTC.

I’m tired of being told that if I’m not for the way the President is handling things, I can’t support the troops, and I must be siding with the terrorists.

Selling coins, selling wars and selling our international relations short, all have the same face on their marketing: 9/11. Believe me, I understand marketing.  It’s what I do every day.  But I know where to draw the line because right now, 9/11 is being used like the trump card in a game of Euchre.

The election can’t get over soon enough.

My Hollywood Version

I imagine another president, not necessarily a democrat, but a different kind of man. He’s still at the school reading a story to the children and the word comes in that there’s been a major attack against American civilians on American soil. I imagine him standing up, pacing back and forth for a moment, weighing the situation. Turning to the children and saying “Children, something very bad has happened today, you might not understand it, but it’s important that I go and help take care of it now. I want you to stay calm, no matter what happens today. I have to go now and help some people.”

And then I imagine him going somewhere, either being taken to a command location, or taking over the school offices if the Secret Service didn’t think it was safe to head to Washington, and turning it into a situation room. I imagine him getting reports, demanding answers and directing the nation. I imagine him giving instructions and drafting his address to the nation.

I imagine him vowing in his address to the nation that the people of America, and their elected officials shall not rest until we have brought those responsible for this grave and terrible act to justice. I imagine a president engaging the nation, asking for international assistance and keeping a steel resolve to hunt down the person or persons responsible.

I don’t imagine him sitting like a lost little boy wondering what to do. I don’t imagine him initiating another agenda, for any reason, until the perpetrators of such a vile and heinous act have been brought to justice. I don’t imagine him gloating over a mission accomplished or over the capture of anybody else, until those responsible for the attack rests behind bars. I don’t imagine seeing anything but grim determination on his face or hearing anything but unyielding purpose in his voice when he speaks on the quest to see those responsible punished. I don’t imagine him treating the hunt for Osama Bin Ladin like OJ searching for the true killer of Nicole.

I see him refusing to campaign on a tragedy. I see him on television asking people to vote for him on his policies and on the future of America at his control, promising a bright and healed land of the free, not a scarred and brutalized land of the frightened. That’s what I hope a real president would have done after 9/11.

How truly sad is it that the best and most inspiring politicians of our age are all fictional characters?