For however many more years the good Lord has me on this Earth, I never want to see anything like Sept. 11, 2001, again.
It was a day of hell. And for the families who lost a loved one, that hell is relived at any moment on the news, on the Internet and in people’s minds. Thankfully, I am not one of those people; my ache is different, and it will never be as deep as it is for those who had to say goodbye to someone in the days that followed that sunny September morning in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
Yet in the aftermath of that horrible day, our country — albeit for too short a time — was unified. We sought to take care of each other. We spoke with pride about not caving in. We said we would recover. We propped up our friends who needed support. We saluted the leaders and peoples around the world who offered their words of encouragement and their promises of prayer.
But that’s all gone now.
Two wars, multiple highly contested presidential elections, an economic collapse, the flowering of the idea that government is awful, fear-mongering, propaganda masquerading as news, a black president and now a bigoted president have ensured that Americans have fractured into tribalism.
We have sought the safety and security of neighborhoods, people and clubs linked to what we believe. In a sea of information, we choose ever smaller and smaller boats to seek our knowledge. We see the other not as someone who might be right or informed, but rather as someone who is (take your pick of the following) arrogant, stupid, elitist, a red neck, racist or spiteful. The list can go on.
The events of the past 24 hours in Virginia also remind us that domestic terrorism — yes, men and women who are American citizens and who are definitely not Muslim — is far more likely in our country than an incident planned from somewhere else.
When a 20-year-old white man deliberately rams the car he is driving into a group of people protesting white supremacy, he is a terrorist. If convicted of his crimes, he should spend many, many years in prison. He is on the wrong side of the law. And he is on the wrong side of history.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that white supremacy — an evil idea that suggests the color of one’s skin makes one better than a person with a different pigmentation — is flourishing. In the United States, the country that claims a moral authority anywhere and everywhere in the world. And in 2017.
White supremacy endorses racism and hate. The people who believe this crap are free to do so, and they are within their rights to state their beliefs publicly. However, they are not within their rights to use the ever-present violence associated with this nasty ideology. When they do, the nation’s leaders — all of them — must forcefully denounce what has taken place.
There are millions of white Americans this morning saying, “hey, those white supremacists don’t represent me. I’m proud of who I am, but I am no Nazi.”
They should be saying that. And the next time they hear of a terrorist attack by someone who is Muslim, I hope they immediately say, “Hey, that person doesn’t represent Islam. Muslims are proud of their faith, and people who kill in the name of it are not real Muslims.”
America’s claim to international leadership is in tatters. It’s easy to point the finger of blame at one man and to think that choosing someone else in a few years will fix the problem.
Wake up, folks.
If the United States wants to be a shining city on the hill or a beacon of light in the storm, then it needs to remember to support all its people.
It needs to stand for what is right.
It needs to practice its values at home and to export those properly abroad.
It must not allow evil to take root.
It must care for the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich.
It cannot discriminate.
It cannot hate.