Monday, September 12, 2011

Grateful for America's Uniqueness-more reflections on 9/11

Three thousand names! The reading of the names of victims of 9/11 was the centerpiece of the commemoration on Sunday,9/11/11, ten years after that awful moment in our lives, a moment that changed the face of the entire world.
Those who watched their TV screens were afforded the added visual dimension of a photograph and an age, which added a greater sense of reality to the public recitation.
So many of the names were mispronounced; as a matter of fact, if called upon to write out those names, most of us would not know how! The scope of ethnic variety and national diversity was staggering! The World Trade Center-a microcosm of NYC and the USA, housed a veritable united nations of peoples and ethnic groups.
As one name followed the other, it became clear to me,on an emotional level, how unique and extraordinary America is in this world. No country anywhere, perhaps with the exception of our neighbor to the north, Canada, can claim a population of such diversity and difference. Given our population numbers-300 million-the American reality is sui generis on this planet.
How daunting a task, I thought, to achieve some consensus and mutuality, a sense of unity and shared values, so necessary to govern successfully, from so many disparate groups.
And yet, in face of this challenge, the greatness of America lies precisely in its extraordinary amalgam of people, all of whom are bound together by the dream of personal and political freedom.
Ethnic, cultural or religious background mattered little to those who committed this evil act-no distinctions were made by the terrorists-they were attacking Americans and it was the American who was their enemy.
Perhaps one of the reasons for such murderous hatred is deeply embedded in the psyche of so many people who simply cannot abide by the notion of human freedom that allows each one of us the right to be ourselves. How impossible it seems for nations and groups, religions and ideologies to tolerate, with understanding and respect, the commitments and ways of life of others. If anything makes America singular and a model to be emulated it is not its military power, wealth or technological dominance. It is its internal cultural , intellectual, social and spiritual structures that embrace us in the canopy of freedom, tolerance and an abiding respect for difference and diversity. This is America's strength and uniqueness; for this we all can be profoundly grateful.
9/11 is a powerful and painful reminder of the American dream and promise to this world. Let us hope that we can achieve our dream without repeated nightmares of terrorism and murder.

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