The recent passing of the 20th anniversary of 9/11 brought with it the inevitable lamentations for our loss of the national unity that welled up in the aftermath of that tragic day.
I saw several variations on the idea of “I wish we had the America of September 12th” … Instead, presumably, of the bitter division and the vicious “everything the people who don’t agree with me do is evil” mentality of today.
An admirable sentiment, perhaps, if not for the fact that it was itself utterly forgotten by the dawning of this September 12th.
And as those “Never Forget” tributes played out across every form of media in a nation that until that week had long forgotten 9/11, any lessons it might have taught, the 20-year war that had only just been ended weeks before, and the entire nation of Afghanistan, something crystallized for me.
It’s not a new notion, I know, but it hit me like an epiphany.
America is incapable of uniting without someone or something that we can all hate, fear, or get angry about.
In fact, America accomplishes almost nothing without hate, fear, and anger. They are the only sentiments that move us in sufficient numbers to do anything. They are our food, our drink, our very life force. They are our reason for being. And if we can’t find something external, alien, other, to vilify and hate and fear, then we’ll hate and fear and be angry at each other.
Either we hate and fear “them”, or we hate and fear us. Full stop.
I don’t know what, if anything, we’ll be able to find to hate enough to bring us together again. But I hope we find it soon.
Because there’s work to be done.
In the meantime, I’ll be sharing some ideas here, on the occasional Thursday, about what that work should be — about what we need to do as a nation to become a nation that’s more than the broken promise we’ve always been.