Ten years ago, the foundations of America – and the free world – were shaken by the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. After ten years and countless fronts in the Middle East later, America continues to mourn, in what can only be described as a protracted outpouring of national grief.
One would surmise that the wounds of America would have healed ten years after the tragedy. It should be: Osama bin Laden is dead, Saddam Hussein has been executed, and the rest of the world has changed. Under the Obama administration, the United States faces a new war far more dangerous and with more far-reaching consequences than terrorism and fundamentalist extremism. Yet today America continues to spread the message of its victimization: one that cost countless lives in a war whose fundamentals are still being questioned.
As long as America keeps dwelling – and dwelling – on the wounds of September 11, it cannot heal. No nation has benefited more from the wounds of 9/11 more than the United States, from the outpouring of global sympathy to the rallying of international support. Yet the War on Terror came with the costs of displacing millions of Iraqis who had nothing to do with Osama’s terrorism or Saddam’s belligerence.
Other nations have risen to the occasion to jockey for position in the international economy at the expense of America. More than that, though, there are no commemorations or remembrances for the innocent lives lost in the war fronts of Afghanistan and Iraq. The lives lost in the suicide attacks were victims; the lives lost in the wars were mere casualties and statistics.
Should the United States grieve? It should: we cannot fathom the impact of the attacks. Yet it should move on, too. Ten years after the fact should be enough time to reckon the progress of grieving and remembering. It’s not a matter of forgetting 9/11 and putting it in the back burner, but to imagine the possibilities of creating a better nation because of it. Unto itself, America sees itself as the victim of an attack to its ideals and ideas. Yet to the rest of the world, America emerged as a country that, after 9/11, bumbled along the way to spend so many years and so many billions to seek revenge: emerging from the tragedy in the form of recession, massive unemployment, economic crisis, and the premises of war remaining somewhat unsolved.
America is great not because it goes to war. The greatness of America should find redemption in the example of those who cleaned up after 9/11, those who offered consolation and guidance, those who helped their fellow American emerge from the tragedy unbowed. America should seek its inspiration not from a warmongering President or departments configured to prolong wars, but in ordinary Americans who wanted to move on from the tragedy and emerge stronger and better. America is great not because of September 11, but because of the values that give it its strength. America should not only remember its own that died from the tragedy, but remember those that passed on and were killed by its own tragic actions after 9/11.
America should find inspiration and closure not in the rubble that it wallows in today, but its great symbol across the river: the statue that guided it over the years. America is great not because of 9/11, but because of things bigger than acts of terror.