ten years gone

Fully knowing that they were only between 4 and 8 at the time, I asked a group of high school students where they were on 9/11.   The response was probably what you would expect.  They sort of remember it, but it didn’t really seem like it was a part of who they were. They didn’t comprehend the sadness, the fear the anxiety of the day and of the weeks following.  The anthrax scare that followed 9/11 didn’t even get on their radar.  To people who fully remember the events of the day, it is hard not to watch a remembrance video without tearing up.  It is difficult for your stomach to not sink a little when the vivid images of people jumping out of the towers roll across the screen.  In the weeks following 9/11 it was hard to step on an airplane and not profile someone (as guilty as I feel about this)…Airport security was always, “that way.” Osama Bin Laden was a household name.

I grieved a little that they did not share in the suffering of the day.  There is something about sharing in suffering that changes your perspective.  There is something that unites, that gives people a view of what’s really important.  Mostly I grieved because I realized that there is an entire generation that will never feel what I felt as I sat paralyzed in horror in front of my TV that day on September 11th.

I’ve learned that remembering is more than knowing facts.  Remembering involves feeling the pain of those whom we have a common connection with.  I’ve never felt people’s pain more clearly than I did on 9/11.  I’ve never felt more united with my fellow Americans than I did on that day.

The coming generation may never remember watching people in other countries burn American flags in the days following that horrific day.  Although some of the videos that the news was showing were shot months prior to September 11th, there was still some celebrating.  I remember how sickening that was.  I wasn’t angry but simply disgusted.  It was obvious that the up and coming generation didn’t get this because a few months ago when Osama Bin Laden was killed, we saw people celebrating in the streets.  Although there is a legitimate cause for relief in people’s mind that Bin Laden is no longer with us, it highlighted that we didn’t remember the suffering that plagued that day.  When we celebrated the death of Bin Laden we just created a cycle of vengeance.  To some Islamic extremist 9/11 was a taste of victory, for many who were hurt the death of Bin Laden was the same taste.  If we keep going down this same road, it makes me anxious to ask, what will the extremist celebrate next?  Then, what will we celebrate after that?

I learned that de-escalation of conflict is difficult when you have a people full of pain.  I also learned that genuine love conquers that pain.  I learned that loving my neighbor means protecting them.  I also learned my neighbor serves Allah.  I learned that cycles do exist and we can encourage them or discourage them.  I’ve learned that the world is smaller than I thought.  I learned that my kids who were born 8 and 10 years after 9/11 would somehow need to know the story.  They will somehow need to feel my pain.  They will somehow need to engage the world in a loving way as to not perpetuate the cycle of destruction in a world that is already devoid of love.  The will need to remember the suffering of a people who were gone before they arrived.


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live animal

I’ve previously mentioned our self-induced engineered lack of community in this world, and I want to tell you about Chad.  I don’t even know his last name, other than he is a one-man band called, “Live Animal.”  Chad and I shared a flight from Indianapolis to Denver.  He is the kind of vagabond that rejects the societal engineering that forces individualism.  He is a communal guy who finds hope in creative community.  He and I shared a two-hour conversation about politics, Dylan, Jesus, Nietzsche and community.  We hardly landed on anything except for individualism is putting a stranglehold on our society.

Individualism isn’t all evil, it’s good to have an individual personality so one can stand on their own two feet.  It is extreme individualism that is killing our culture and harming public morality.  Extreme individualism is inherently selfish, community is inherently selfless.  Individualism leads to excess while community leads to generosity.

These might sound like bold claims but just think about the very simple task of going to the grocery store versus growing your own food.  At the grocery store you can buy one apple and meet your need, but if you lived in a village that grew their own food and you grew an apple tree, you can meet the need of many people in your community.

Here’s another example, and warning, this is going to sound liberal.  Why do you pay taxes?  Probably because you are compelled to by the IRS, but what is the thought behind taxes?  We all contribute to a government that will be for the common good of its citizens. (I know this is idealistic and there is a larger question about whether or not the government is faithfully stewarding the peoples’ resources, but humor me a little, will ya?) So the question I have is would you pay $50 more a year in taxes for our schools to improve?  For many of us that is an easy answer, we would say “absolutely no new taxes.”  I understand this mentality; really I do because I struggle with this.  So now that we have all voted “no” what happens to your local school?  Teachers get pink slipped, class sizes increase, the quality of education begins to diminish, the people with the means pull their kids out and send them to private school, thus reducing school funding.  Then what happens to the culture of the town where this school is going down hill?  Maybe the dropout rate increases, maybe crime and drugs become more prevalent in your community, maybe you start seeing prostitution, maybe the value of your home drops.  There are a lot of maybes in this scenario, but let me ask one more question.  Would you pay $50.00 per year to maintain the value of your home over the long term?

I realize that our government is polarized and seemingly useless right now, but I think our answers to the questions above say something about what we value.  Do we value community or do we value individuality? Do we act in the common good of society, or the common good of the individual.

I am thankful for my conversation with Chad, it went everywhere.  We talked about schools and taxes and even though you might think my senario is far fetched, it is what is playing out in his hometown of Indianapolis.  When we reframe our perspective from, “what is the best for me?” to “what is the best for my community?” then we take a jump from selfish to selfless from an individual perspective to a communal one.

It is interesting to note that Jesus has a solid plan for taking care of the poor.  It is called community.  It is called jubilee.  It is called generosity.  Some people call it love in action or incarnation living.  It is called the church, or the community of redemption…But what happens if that institution too has become individualized?


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