Nine One One

11 years ago… I woke up to my good friend Greg Lensch frantically calling me at 5:45AM, aware that I was supposed to be flying from Newark to San Francisco on that clear blue September Tuesday morning. Instead he found me slumbering in San Francisco having changed my plans. Together (by phone) we watched the towers crumble and watched a nation humbled over the next two hours.

America was actually so very beautiful on that day — humble but proud, resolute and unified, somber but strong. I drove under the Burlingame overpass and a man quietly held a giant American flag over the railing of the bridge. No one honked, no one cheered or hollered… cars just proceeded serenely past along the snaking 101.

I realized then that the USA was at a fork in the road. Along one path lay the opportunity to become a more benign, mature, and constructivist global citizen. Along another lay a journey toward blood lust and the thirst for revenge.

We all know which path the nation’s leaders steered the public down next..

Writing in Salon, David Sirota observed the cheers and celebrations of Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011, saying: “we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys.”

In Iraq, perhaps as many as 131,000 civilians have died. In Afghanistan, perhaps as many as 50,000 are dead and hundreds of thousands are internal refugees. Between the two wars nearly 8,000 NATO soldiers have perished under fire and estimates are that more than 100,000 will have been wounded in combat in some way. More than $9 trillion has been spent by the United States on Defense, Homeland Security, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11, leading largely to America’s current fiscal woes.

I cannot imagine that we in the West are more secure as a result of any of these. And at the risk of preaching on a day when we should be honouring the memory of those souls lost on 9/11, I wonder whether they would have thought that this was all worthwhile?

“If you seek revenge, dig two graves.” – Chinese Proverb.