Sunday, September 9, 2012

How far we have come….how far still to go

By: Joelle Charbonneau

Today is Sept. 9th.  Tuesday will mark the 11th anniversary of 9/11.  With the political season upon us, I suppose it isn’t strange that I am thinking about that time and what has happened since.

9/11 and the days after were horrible.  Filled with sadness and fear.  Loss of life and security. Strangely, there was something good that came from the horror.  A sense of community that I can’t remember feeling before.  We as a people were bound together by tragedy, yes, but there was something more that connected us.


That no matter the number of attacks we might suffer or the concerns we might have, we were one people.  Our country was no stranger to adversity.  Those that that come before us had emerged from past trials stronger and our community more vibrant and humane than before.  We could hope it would do so again.

In the days after 9/11, the kindnesses that I saw between people who might not otherwise bother to notice each other were astonishing.  Little acts.  Big gestures.  We remembered that no matter what our political, ethnic or religious differences were we were all people.  We deserved respect.  We were one.

This thought was driven home to me the other day by my 4 year old son.  He just started school again.  Last year, he learned the Pledge of Allegiance.  He memorized it, but as long as he got the words right he wasn’t concerned about their meaning.  This year while practicing he stopped to ask me what one word meant.


I explained to him that it meant that though we all liked doing different things and had different personalities, the wonderful thing about our country is that we all are united.  That we stand together.  That unlike his Legos nothing can break us apart.

He thought my explanation was cool, but after he turned away, I realized I was sad.  We have only to look at the political rhetoric being thrown around to realize we are not indivisible.  Angry shouts divide us more and more everyday.  The lack of compromise.  The inability for people to debate without destroying.  It is not enough to disagree with an idea, people are encouraged by many to hate.  To distrust.  To fear that which is not the same. 

Fear and hate.  Two things that are fostered by terrorists that propels then to attack and destroy.  Things we condemned after the twin towers fell but have allowed to grow and fester since.

Eleven years have passed since 9/11.  Since the time people sang God Bless America and meant all the people and laws of America not just those they agreed with.  Eleven years since we truly celebrated the fact we had such a diverse population and a wide range of ideas.  We stood by the freedoms that allow us all to have different ideas.  We turned from fear and hate.  We embraced the hope we would rise again.  Stronger.  Better.  Kinder. 

So for all of you still reading, I ask you to read this aloud:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the Republic for which it stands
One Nation under God
With liberty and justice for all.

Whether you believe in God or not, the spirit of unity found in these words is what our country was founded on.  We all deserve to have ideas.  We deserve to discuss those ideas with others without having those who disagree accuse us of being stupid or evil.  The country was founded on discussion.  Just because our forefathers signed the constitution doesn’t mean they agreed with every point.  Some fought hard and long for things that other fought equally as hard against.  But they listened.  They debated and they compromised.  Because they were indivisible, as we should be.

As 9/11 approaches, I ask everyone to remember back to that horrible day when the towers fell, the Pentagon was struck and planes fell from the sky.  Remember the loss of lives.  The heroism of those on United flight number 93.  Remember how you felt about the people who you met on the street and saw at work or in stores in the days and weeks that followed.  Remember that we are one people.  That while we have different ideas, the worst threat to our country is not terrorists, but forgetting that no matter how our beliefs differ we are indivisible.  There is no greater threat to that pledge my son has learned than ourselves. 


John McFetridge said...

Good post. That indivisible thing is very tough.

9/11 was really an international event and for a brief moment afterwards a lot of us in the rest of the world thought it might lead to a little more understanding of how the whole world is connected.

But one step at a time, eh... ;)

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Indivisible is tough, but I think remembering to respect before we rage is the most important step to getting there. Hopefully everyone worldwide will some day understand the connection we have.

Jeannine Leonhart said...

Once again, Joelle, you have expressed most eloquently the thoughts of many Americans. Indeed, we are one people, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. A thought we can put into action every day and not just Patriot's Day, September 11.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Joelle, I love you. That is all.

Anonymous-9 said...

Well said, Joelle.