Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

Eight years ago today, I was blissfully sleeping in my bed, when my teenage stepson came into our room at around 7:00 AM telling us we had better turn on the news. Apparently, he had been listening to the radio as he was getting ready for school and had heard that something was going on in New York City, that it was being attacked. That sounded pretty strange, so I got my pregnant butt out of bed and went to the living room to turn on the TV.

There on the screen was an image of the World Trade Center with smoke billowing out. I saw only one tower, but my brain filled in the blanks, telling me that the other tower was behind this smoking one. However, they kept showing clips of that second plane hitting the second tower, and the first tower was clearly visible in those shots. I felt uneasy about that but still kept telling myself that the other tower was just blocked from view. I sat mesmerized when all of a sudden, the second tower crumbled to the ground. Gone just like that. I will never forget that image and the sick feeling in my stomach, the shocking blow of realization that not just one, but both towers were destroyed.

It seemed impossible that something like this could happen, that those huge iconic skyscrapers could be destroyed so quickly, that our country was under attack in Washington DC as well. It was horrifying, gut-wrenchingly sad, confusing, shocking, and frightening. I remember watching people in countries all over the world mourning our loss. I remember how patriotic we all felt, displaying our American flags on our cars, in our cubicles at work, defiantly telling the world that we were strong and would survive this.

I also remember finally taking that flag down from my cubicle as 9/11 got twisted by our government leaders into an excuse to go to war with a country that had nothing to do with it, to erode our civil liberties, and as we are now finding out all too well, to torture.

But today is 9/11, and I won't dwell on that. I will simply honor and mourn those who died on that day: the passengers on the planes and the workers in the buildings. I will remember the many heroes of that day: including the brave firefighters, police and rescue workers, the passengers on Flight 93 who prevented what could have been an even greater tragedy.

And I will hug the boy I was carrying in my womb that morning and wish for him and his little brother a future where innocent people are not killed by evil, cowardly terrorists.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Sad Story of the School Speech Storm

Once upon a time, the President of the United States had a great idea! He wanted to give a motivational speech that could be shown to students around the country. The speech would encourage the nation's students to stay in school and study hard. It would touch on his own experience when he was in school and how hard he worked to make it to become the President. Above all, it would emphasize the personal responsibility of each student to work hard to reach their own special potential. The speech would look something like this.

But there were some in the country who did not like the President, perhaps even hated the President. They used to be in charge but had squandered their power with wars and reckless spending and greed. They were angry now that they were not in power and vowed to do whatever they could to bring down the President, even wanting him -- and by extension the country -- to fail. Their strategy was to oppose everything the President was trying to do. They capitalized on some people's fear of the President's strange-sounding name and the darker color of his skin. They called him "anti-American" and "scary".

And so, when the President wanted to give this innocent, valuable, motivating speech that would be good for students and therefore good for the country, these people pounced and lied and urged their followers to do the unthinkable -- not allow their children to go to school and listen to the speech, thus making their children truant. They accused the President of injecting politics when they were the ones who had done so by politicizing such a harmless event. They accused the President of indoctrinating the children, when they were the ones indoctrinating their own children to disrespect the fairly and democratically elected leader of the country. Some school districts would not even show the speech, even though past Presidents had given similar speeches and not been excluded.

How could one explain this shocking turn of events? Why would people go to such great lengths to prevent children from listening to the President? The same people who used to shout the loudest that the President deserves respect and it is our patriotic duty as Americans to respect our President, especially during wartime, were strangely silent on that point now. Sadly, it seems that along with the great joy of electing the first African-American president also comes great resistance from those who still harbor hatred and fear.

Many schools will broadcast the speech. Many kids will be inspired. Maybe one of those kids will someday become President of the United States. Maybe it will be a little girl growing up to be a strong woman. Maybe it will be an Asian-American, an Hispanic-American, or another African-American or mixed-race child. Or maybe it will be a white man, who was once a little boy listening to his President telling him to work hard and never give up on himself. Any of these will be a happy ending to what has been a pretty sad story so far.

The end.