Last night, my daughter interviewed my wife for a school report she’s working on about September 11th. As my wife and I told our stories about where we were, and what we remembered, it made me think of the fear that ran through our country years all those years ago.
I remember listening to reports coming in over the radio as the world watched the towers burn then fall. I saw the videos that night that captured the tragedy in full color. I watched as reports of heroism and sacrifice streamed across news media for days to come.
One of the slogans that surfaced was Never Forget. It was a reminder to be vigilant in times of peace, and thankful for the way of life that our armed forces allow us to enjoy. It was a rallying call that united the country in need for strong retaliation against the fear that attacked and burned at the very soul of a country.
It’s a humbling reminder that our powerful country is vulnerable. Indeed, we should always remember the losses of that day and the heroes who surfaced during, and after the attacks.
There’s another lesson from 9/11 we would do well to recall. After the attacks, the fear that many people felt and the anger that went along with it found a home in the Muslim community. Suddenly it was socially acceptable to discriminate against Muslims. Extra searches at the airport, suspicious looks in malls and public spaces. Verbal antagonism and sometimes even open violence. It was so easy to see the people who committed the terrorist attacks and connect them with people who shared the same religion or style of dress.
Of all the frightful ideas surrounding 9/11, the ability for hatred to be accepted, condoned, and allowed to exist in such hurtful and blatant contexts scared me the most. The government and the military can protect me from terrorist and their weapons, but who can protect me from the hatred in another man’s heart? What law stops someone from spreading hate and discriminating people in the court of public opinion.
The fear that turned one American against one another thrived in post 9/11 America, and we are dealing with a similar atmosphere of fear today. So, as you remember all that 9/11 is to the U.S., remember this: America has a history of denying basic rights to some of its most vulnerable citizens when the fear is great enough to justify the action.
Remember how Black Wall Street burned in Oklahoma.
Remember how Japanese Americans were rounded up in World War II.
Remember how Muslims were treated after September 11th.
Remember how fear is attached to Hispanic immigrants in the election which continues today.
Don’t be fooled into naïve thinking that we as a country are above repeating these horrible atrocities. Remember that fear of every day, good people, like you and me allowed these tragedies to happen. Silence in times of prospering evil has the same effect as outright support. There is no neutral, no way to sit on the sidelines and remain uninvolved in what we see today. Fear has once again gripped our country, and we must all take part in making sure we never forget.