inside every man is a struggle between good and evil that cannot be resolved – homer simpson
I’ve looked at this anniversary through a different lens the last few years. I fully admit it’s somewhat opaque. There’s a lot of emotions that are conflicting stemming from the experience I had that day and in the subsequent years since. Many of them are not easy to explore or comprehend, nevermind explain to anyone.
Until today’s reflection, I found myself content to reflect upon my career and upon my education, but upon my personal relationships and self-actualization I was less inclined. It wasn’t a rut, it was a difference in internal opinion.
Good versus evil for children’s books is pretty stark. It exists in black and white with no shades of grey, no varying contrasts, no translucency blurring things. We want to think of 11 Sept 2001 in the same way. It was us, the good Americans being unexpectedly executed by the evil terrorists. Our own leaders used just such a simple, straight forward, childhood monster style propaganda to rally us in the wake of the attacks.
Real life doesn’t work that way. There’s never a definitive resolve of good or evil.
Was what happened on the morning of September 11 bad? Yes. By most all definitions and by most rational intents and purposes the death of seemingly innocent, unarmed humans in a surprise blitz assault would truly be bad. And thus could only be done by evil people.
The grander picture though beckons a more mature, adult view of the attack itself. It isn’t just about those individuals who were participants in the day but rather the metaphoric shattering of our collective innocence and the struggle we each deal with in the wake of the event. This is about the disconnect between the people, places and things in the event and the more general construct of the event in-and-of itself.
We, as a people, struggle even now three quarters of a decade later with what to do with the facts, truths and other assorted collective social knowledge acquired from the event. We fight about memorials. We fight about the publishing of photos documenting the day. We fight about replacing the Twin Towers with the Freedom Tower and the old Rector Street Station with another transit stop. We fight about who suffers more, those who had family members that died or those whose family member’s survived but are forever irreparably changed as a result of the day. And, we fight about if we should even be fighting about any of those things. And that doesn’t even touch on any of the other aftermaths, like wars and the endless bullshit political posturing on if (not even how, mind you) first responders should be compensated for responding in the first place.
It is subtly embarrassing to thing that the collective conscience could become so split on what should appear, on the surface, as a part of the idealism of our collective identity. Yet, we’re three quarters of a decade out and arguing about some fundamental as how to be honor our dead or represent ourselves. The difficulty with free will, with a democratic republic, with collective individuality is that divergent paths are not only inevitable but almost considered ideal. We want to be in charge of ourselves, sometimes at the expense of others as personal desires trump collective empathy.
As a nation we considered ourselves attacked, we considered ourselves wounded, we considered ourselves hurting but as time’s gone on we’ve individualized the experience and we’ve internalized our own versions which tear at the moral fabric of whom we wish we were. This is a dichotomy we struggle with, we did during isolationism in the past fighting against the eventuality that the human ecosystem exists beyond any single country boarders as we got involved in the World Wars (and subsequent American Imperialism era) and continues today. I’m not confident enough to argue this further back, but I would be sure that the reality of this mentality can probably be shown through additional growing pains of the American Republic as well as that of many similar societies.
The terror attacks represent a time for us, as a nation, but more or less, us as individuals who make up the collective conscience of the nation we coexist as, to take a long, deep, hard look at ourselves. To identify as ourselves our own personal evils, our individual failures, our singular wrong doings and devise a series of goals in the short and long term as to how we want to confront them and change our beings. The old addage goes, ‘you’re only as strong as your weakest link’ and as a country we’re a community of weak, goal-less links, downtrodden and saddened by the evil we perceive from the sadness we personally feel. Likewise, this is an equally unique opportunity to identify our positives, without ego, without exceptionalism, without self-importance and grandeur. It is the time to find out our real strengths, our real viralty, our real abilities to induce positive outcomes.
The question isn’t can we, it’s more if, will we?
I want desperately to believe we will. In some brief, and fleeting moments I think we have seen the best of what Americans are, what we aspire to be and the reflection of what we’ve been at our perceived highest points as they parallel to today. I’m proud of who I am, of my American heritage and that of the family, friends and fellow citizens who live in and around NYC these days. We’ve overcome things that most of America have never and probably will never experience. Our daily metropolitan new york lives even outside of 911 are unique experiences that require a truly open mind, open heart and secure sense of self actualization in order to survive, never mind the affects of the 93 and 2001 attacks along with the looming threat of being the economic engine (providing over 12% of GDP) and social mecca (housing over 15% of citizens) target for people who are fearful, jealous or otherwise ignorant of what the region has to offer.
Laboring over the thoughts of September 11 last year and considering how far I’ve come personally since then I am ok with the struggles I personally feel equalizing all my different emotions about the anniversary. I don’t ever think I’m going to come to a singular consensus for myself. Some years I may be more reflective, some more angry, some more sad, some more, believe it or not, forward looking and that, I think loops back best to where this started, on the Simpson’s quote that best encapsulates my feelings.