I'm not forgetting what happened five years ago today. I'm not forgetting dismissing the first plane as a bad accident, then going back to my work in my basement cubicle. I'm not forgetting hearing about the second plane and then the attack in Washington and later the crash in Pennsylvania. I'll also remember watching everything on television, phoning my parents to make sure they were okay, not being able to eat, and generally being so angry I literally couldn't see straight for a few minutes.
I miss the 9/10/01 America. I miss the old policy discussions on whether or not Anti-Ballistic Missile defense was going to be a good idea, whether Enron's or Arthur Andersen's executives should be strung up collectively or separately, even the goofy idea that shark attacks were on the rise simply because humans existed. Humans do exist, so do sharks. I miss my college friends, seeing them only a few times after I graduated in 2000, only twice after five years ago today.
The problem is that the world progresses and throws new crises in your way every day. So, I've lost touch with those friends. I don't work in that basement cubicle anymore. In fact, I've lived in four different towns in the past five years, moving from one private-sector job to another. Thankfully I now have a public-sector job that's more stable and secure.
I'm almost back in the 9/10/01 feel. I doubt I'll have that same sense of easygoing satisfaction again because of what happened five years ago today. There are others out there like me, or so I hope. These people will take the lessons we learned and be more vigilant for signs of trouble. We will also go back to our faith to find comfort and counsel. We will remember the meanings of charity, kindness, and compassion. More importantly, we will put our hands to work, making concrete those three concepts.
There is always a second side to that desire to do peaceful things, to live a good life without coercion. There is that vigilance I spoke about. With that desire to do good, there comes the necessity of defending yourself. First, defend yourself through words. Explain yourself. Judge the others' reactions. If they respond with violence, do what you must do to quell them, then return to doing good. Balancing the need to protect yourself and the desire to do that which is good is a very human problem. It is also a very American problem. Upon further thought, it's a problem found in every nation built on a model similar to ours. We want to do good, to welcome the stranger in our midst, but what of the stranger who wishes to do us harm? Once we've turned the other cheek again, then what? If freedom is the ability to choose that which is good without coercion, what do we do when coercion through violence and fear appears, what do we do when our lives are threatened in a most immediate sense? We defend ourselves. We set aside the desire to do good things, and ask for forgiveness once we're done.
It's that balance that we must find in our lives. We find that the more we want to transcend our human nature, the more often we have to revert to it. The turmoil caused by this can lead people to an all-or-nothing life. All talk, or all violence. Acting constantly, always interfering, or always remaining passive, never taking part when needed. The all-or-nothing approach leads to arrogance. It blinds you to better options, and blinds you from addressing the problem directly in front of you. Does that approach come from wanting easy answers? Will it arise from mental and spiritual laziness?
We can't afford laziness or trying to fall back on easy answers. We can't afford an all-or-nothing existence on a permanent basis. As much as we want it, we cannot yet afford to return to the 9/10/01 life that we miss. Five years after the attacks by al-Qaeda, we still need to defend ourselves, to remember our human natures. Once we're done, we can try to find that peaceful satisfaction. Then we can get on with our business of doing good again.