Today is, of course, the sixth anniversary of those terrible events that brought death and destruction to America. It is hard to write about such events. How can mere words really say anything in the face of such horror? But, the silence can be too awful to endure and must be filled with words.
I vividly remember watching the news coverage of the towers. I had grown up during the Vietnam era and I had seen horrible things on television before. But never anything quite like what I saw that day. Being something of an amateur historian, I had seen many documentaries of wars. I had seen films of bombed and murdered cities. But, of course, there is a vast difference between seeing images from decades ago and seeing burning buildings on live television.
The horror of these events was matched only by the kindness and heroism they also generated. While people were talking about avenging the deaths, people were also extremely kind to one another. Even people in countries usually hostile to America expressed their sympathy. For brief while millions, perhaps even billions of people were united by the best feelings of humanity.
Sadly, as they say, all good things come to an end. The good feelings faded. The Bush administration did its best to squander the sympathy the world felt for America. America turned away from being at its best and instead was led down a terrible path that included torture and the violation of the basic principles of the nation.
One of the saddest questions is “what if?” I can only imagine what might have been if we had stuck with the good feelings of unity, kindness and compassion and stayed away from secret prisons and torture.
Fortunately, the path we are on can be left. We still have the capacity for all those fine feelings that those deaths brought out in is. These fine feelings are the ones that should guide us. Hopefully it will not take the deaths of more innocents to remind us of what we can be.
Naturally enough, someone will say that fine feelings are no match for hate and people who want to kill us.
This does contain an element of truth. Being good is no shield against a bomb, a bullet or a crashing airplane. That is why we also need to be ready to resist such attacks.
But, we can resist terror and hatred without giving up what it is best in us.
As others have said, the war against terror is a moral struggle. I agree with that. It is ultimately a battle between what is good in us and what is evil in us. What is all too often forgotten is that moral victories cannot be won without being moral.