Posts Tagged ‘hope’

We like to commemorate in the United States. Coming up, what I refer to as The-Anniversary-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named recalls a horrible event ten years ago when four planes, two towers, and several thousand lives were destroyed in an attack on U.S. soil. In the days that followed, we came together, focused not on hate and destruction (at least to my grief-stricken, New York-centric eyes) but on resilience and purpose.

Heartbreaking, isn’t it? Not that my husband or so many others were killed but that, ten years later, we’re farther apart than ever. Everyone has an opinion as to why that’s happened (everyone has an opinion on everything, freely spoken and easily distributed through the unfiltered megaphone that is the Internet). For me, the decade is captured (albeit in a simplified manner) in a letter I had published in the New York Times the other day in response to an article by Tom Friedman:

After my husband died on 9/11, I hoped the American public, which had come together in a spirit of resilience rather than one of anger, would resist the temptation to blame, to justify, to point fingers or to follow an “us versus them” scenario. Instead we’ve devolved into a selfish group of squabblers, ready to throw strangers under the bus and kick friends off the ladder. A small group sacrifices abroad while we dither about the endgame; here at home, we expect our neighbors to fend for themselves and our government to do its job without revenue. The list of enemies foreign and domestic grows longer; we trust no one. While I’m mindful that my husband may be more fairly called a victim than a hero, I am still saddened that his legacy and that of so many others might be tied to a period of profound civic retrenchment.

On my worst days, I’m tempted to blame everyone, including me for sitting at home and indulging in blame. I want to slap the collective citizenry across the face and yell, “Grow up! Stop fighting! Behave yourselves. No one is always right and no one is always perfect. We have to work together to get anything done. Get off your high horse and get to work!”

Honestly, I hate feeling angry as much as I hated feeling grief-stricken. That’s not who my husband was and it’s not who I am. And so I leave my friends, acquaintances and various readers with this rather hopeful thought, played out visually by a lovely dance troupe of children from Denver, CO who have channeled what we used to think of as the American spirit to produce a stunning montage. Sure, it’s sappy but deep down inside, I’m a sap.

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We humans have so many differences about which we’re so angry, I find it hard to believe we haven’t annihilated each other, simply wiped the planet free. We don’t agree about religion, about politics, about race, about gender, about child-rearing, about climate change, health care, heaven, hell, happiness, ethics, education, money, motive, morality, or even movies;  for example, some may believe “Avatar” represents film-making’s second coming, while others may find it a pleasant visual experience with a couple of nifty new tricks and a paper-thin plot, not nearly as industry-shaking or mind-altering as, say, “2001” or even “Fantasia.” But I digress.

 I like to discover people who agree with me. It helps to know I’m neither crazy nor alone. But I also like healthy debate and welcome differing opinions. It makes life interesting and confirms my belief that there can never be just one, fixed way of looking at anything on a planet with billions of people. 

We’re getting better at accepting the notion of a multicultural family of man, but we’re not very accepting of differing opinions. We are equipped to locate, via cyberspace, those people who support, confirm and applaud our most cherished assumptions. We are also now used to seeing our thoughts in print. Validated and circulated, they may take on an out-sized importance. That, in turn, tempts us less to debate, where we might exchange ideas and perhaps learn something and more to fighting in order to make a point we believe is absolutely, incontrovertibly right.

 It’s so tiring, especially at this time of year because, quite apart of any religious meaning, the holiday has come to stand for the possibility of good feelings and shared humanity. That possibility can seem light years away — as indeed it probably is — but the beauty of not knowing what an outcome will be is that it allows us to hope for the best one. That’s why I can’t help myself: this time of year I invariably bet that eventually (whenever that may be)  we humans will spend more time focusing on what the vast majority of us probably want: safety, freedom from want and pain, love, a sense of purpose, and a sense of community as the basis from which to secure any or all of these things.

Wishing you the best of all possible worlds, now and going forward.


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