People have hyped events and crises and disasters throughout modern history. This time, however, no amount of coverage could be adequate to the loss and devastation that has occurred. A black pit has replaced the heart of what may be the most active city in the world. Tokyo is denser, Washington D.C. more powerful, and Los Angeles perhaps more glamorous, but no city can compete with New York for sheer relentless drive. And now there is a crater in this city, a hole where two of the most amazing creations of that drive ever built, once stood.
We all know about the tragic, horrible events on September 11, 2001. The attacks are being called the "Second Pearl Harbor," an act of "pure evil," and many other things. One comment I have heard over and over is that our world will never be the same, and for once, that rings true.
I make no pretensions of objectivity in this matter. Though it has been a very long time since I lived there, I was born in New York. I have bragged more than once that I bleed "pinstripe blue," a reference to my beloved New York Yankees. And now, I have bled in the simple crimson any person bleeds, in the hope that my blood will give someone else life. I am in no way special in this regard. Thousands of brave men and women are risking their lives even now, on the incredibly slim chance that they may save a handful of others. Millions more, throughout America, wait for hours to do what I did on that terrible Tuesday--donate blood. (On a side note, I add that the Red Cross is asking people to schedule their donations so as to avoid an unusable glut.) Across the world, an outpouring of support and sympathy bolsters a nation so used to standing proudly alone.
The time for standing alone is past.
Much has been said in America of late about how we stand together in a crisis, that our squabbles and petty disagreements are put aside when we are faced with a common enemy. And I am at once proud and humbled at how true that has been. Still, I have heard many--too many--voices of hate, of fear, of discrimination and recriminations. It's the "Ay-rabs," or the "Mooslims," out to get "real God-fearing Americans." Or, why didn't our Intelligence Service know, that's their job?! Where's the President when we need him? How dare the press say things that might endanger him, or anyone else? On and on it goes, a thousand poisonous whispers that threaten to divide us when we most need to be one.
In the days, weeks, and maybe even months to come, we will dissect our options, who the suspects are, what may be the right course of action. Everything from a surgical strike aimed at a handful of men to the annihilation of entire nations has been proposed by angry and grief-stricken Americans. Others, allowing their personal agendas to override their devotion to the common cause, have begun to quietly use this tragedy to further their goals. Still others, most frighteningly, have suggested that perhaps we pay too high a price for our freedom.
Before I continue, I must add that I did not vote for President Bush. I am, in most ways, quite liberal in my political and religious views. I found the way he was brought into office frightening and disturbing. Yesterday, he was my adversary. Tomorrow, he will be my adversary again.
But today, I am not a liberal and he is not a conservative. Today, I am an American and he is my president. Today, if it serves the cause of freedom, I will follow him to the gates of Hell. He and his administration have done the right thing in calling to other nations for all free people to stand together. They have done the right thing to speak of freedom and justice, and not of religion and politics. In America, we have an almost innate derision for our politicians, seeing them as greedy and self-serving leeches. Not today. Today, Democrats and Republicans set aside their differences, when yesterday they fought more bitterly than any time since the Civil War. Today, nations across the world stand together, where yesterday we squabbled over the minutiae of our ever-shrinking world. And yet, so many of us who derided our politicians and leaders continue to allow ourselves to be divided, when they--those greedy, self-serving leeches--have stood together as one.
It is time to stop our thousand poisonous whispers.
Sooner or later, a plan will be formed by those sworn to protect us. We will not know all of the specifics until after the plan is executed, if ever. It is impossible that this plan will be agreeable to everyone. Some will say "too much," and others will say "not enough," no matter what is done. This will not end with a single bullet, nor will our leaders resort to the insanity of a mass nuclear strike. But they have seen the horror as we have, been touched as we have. They cannot and will not fail to act. Tomorrow, we can argue about what was done.
Today, something must be done, and we must--we WILL--stand together to support that action.
A few things are self-evident. If we surrender our freedom to fear, then our enemy has won a greater victory than they could have ever imagined. This is unthinkable. It will not happen. If we do nothing, or the equivalent of nothing, the cycle continues. This cannot happen. If we slaughter for the sake of race or religion, no matter the cause, we become as evil as those we fight. No, even more evil, because we have their example to know evil by. This must not happen.
Other than these few, basic ideals we must hold to, we must treat one another with respect and dignity, now more than ever. We must respect our differences and hold to our common cause. Let those who have been chosen to do this work, do what they must. We must even allow those who utter their thousand poisonous whispers to do so, but we don't have to listen. Let those who have different faiths or skin or politics be as they are.
Let freedom ring.
Oh, and I have a message for the monsters who put a hole in my city. You have sown the wind. You shall reap the whirlwind. There is nowhere left to run. There is no place left for you to hide. The best and most dedicated hunters of evil in the world are tracking you. By the THOUSANDS. You have bloodied us, but the blood of our brothers and sisters is the most powerful mortar you could have used to join us together. You scream out "Purity!", but no pure metal is as strong as an alloy. And you, yourself, have created the fire in which we are forged as one.
The world has, indeed, changed forever. In one voice, humanity has cried out, "no more!" And I have never been so proud to be human. In the span of a few days, I have seen hate cry out its fury, only to be utterly drowned out by millions calling out to their family, to their friends, to complete strangers: "We are here for you, we are with you, you are not alone!"
Perhaps evil will be with us for as long as we are human, but this particular evil's days are numbered.
Yesterday, we worried about money and politics. Tomorrow, we will get back to our differences, because they will have meaning to us again. Today, however, we aren't defined by nation or religion or race or even gender. Today, we are the people of a free and civilized world, perhaps the greatest in history, standing together. Today, a tragedy is proving that however hate and fear try to disguise it, the essential human spirit is brave and glorious...and united.
E Pluribus Unum: From Many, One
Peter Flanagan is a 30-something writer whose normal focus is on the
fantastic--science fiction, fantasy, and high adventure. He has written
primarily for and about role-playing games until now, but was compelled to
speak about this tragedy and its impact on us all. A husband and father,
Peter is defending his family with the weapon he is most adept with: the
English language. You can see more of his work at his website.