These thoughts have been stirring in my hear for some time, and on this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I could think of no better time to share them -- for whatever they're worth.
I remember how we all felt on 9/11, and in its aftermath. Americans were united, in a way I couldn't remember since I was quite small. Flags sprouted on every available surface. White, Black, Brown: Christian, Jew, Muslim. Republican: Democrat. None of these labels mattered -- the only identifier anyone cared about was American.
In the intervening 20 years, we've done more harm to this country than any outsider ever could. We've brought shame upon ourselves -- witness the rioting of last summer, and the abhorrent way we've ended our involvement in Afghanistan. See the people still sitting in planes on the runways of Afghanistan, unable to return to our country, or to come here as our thanks for their help in our efforts there. Watch the attacks of various groups of Americans on other groups -- a young White man shooting up a Black church, a gunman unloading on a group of Jews leaving services at their temple, a bad apple police officer murdering a Black man in our streets. Our bureaucrats lying to us continuously, as if America were their own banana republic, and we just their subjects, rather than their bosses.
For better or worse, I still love this country. It's not perfect -- and no, it didn't even begin perfectly -- but I defy anyone to show me a better place. However imperfect, these United States were the first place that Joe Six-Pack was considered just as good as Mr. Got Rocks, and had an equal voice in whatever the country decided to become. A Black man couldn't, and that was wrong, but it was wrong thinking that had existed throughout the world for aeons, and I can't blame the founders for being men of their times.
America was the first place where anyone -- anyone! -- could become whatever their God-given abilities and their hard work and perseverance could achieve. The Great Melting Pot meant that the best of the rest of the world arrived in America -- those determined to achieve better for themselves and their families. Each new group of arrivals faced the prejudices endemic to all outsiders, but pushed ever forward, and we intermarried, those strong Americans, and we worked, and we achieved. I'm proud of that, and proud and grateful to have been born American.