I remember 9/11. I remember the shock of the first plane, and the confused horror of the second. I remember trying to call home to see if everyone we knew was ok, and I remember the hours of downed lines as everyone else was doing the same. I remember smoking a cigarette and watching the world change.
I remember the days after. I remember the unity of Americans. I remember for a brief moment we loved our neighbor, simply for being our neighbor. I remember the shoulders people lent strangers to cry on, and I remember the beautiful parts of our nationhood.
But I remember what came next. I remember the pointed fingers, and then the pointed guns. I remember the blaming, hating, and most of all I remember the divide.
Thats where we are today. The parting that started on that September morning 16 years ago, has split us so far apart that unity seems like a pipe dream. Split by rhetoric and a demonization of our fellow countryman and women, as we search desperately for scapegoats.
In this duress, we have let the extremes take hold. The extremes that most Americans do not respect or embody. The extremes that are pulling the divide to a breaking point.
America has always had its problems. We have a history rooted in oppression, colonization, slavery, and many other ills. I still believe in America though, and I still call myself a patriot. The word itself has taken a negative connotation, but I won’t let the extremes have that one. I can love America and the beautiful gradients of people in it. I also will not let go of my faith in the fact that most Americans are not hateful or evil people. They just want a good life for themselves and the people they care for.
But we are divided. Divided for a hundred reasons. Some good, and some superfluous.
We need to take a step back to the days after that September morning and remember what it was like for that brief moment to be united. We need to show our children this. That disagreements aren’t akin to hatred, and all but the most extreme can be welcomed.
Then we can start to close the divide. If we can’t do that, we have failed America.