It could have all gone so differently. We could have taken the opportunity to do something transformational. In the Christian tradition, we’d say we believe that there can be new life (resurrection) even after a horrifying death. The potential was there. We had the good will of most of the world. We could have been world leaders in humility, self-reflection and measured deliberation on our response to the horror of the day.
Instead we went to war. We invaded Iraq. We occupied Afghanistan. We elected Barack Obama with the hope of bringing peace to a war-weary nation. Ours. Too bad that we left Iraq in a pile of rubble being picked over by its own internally warring factions.
Today, on the 13th anniversary of 9/11, we’re getting ready to get back into the fray. Out of the cauldron, into which we added our own ingredients of revenge, discord, nationalism and greed, has come ISIL. Oh how easy for us to pick up immediately on the “I” in the name: Islamic. How easy for us to scapegoat faithful Muslims who want nothing to do with this terrorist nightmare.
To tell the truth, I don’t know how I feel about the air strikes President Obama has ordered. I feel as horrified as anyone at the beheadings and other acts of brutality used by this group. Something obviously has to be done. I’m just not sure by whom. And I’d like to hear about some intelligent discussions of all the possible downsides of another incursion into what has until now been one imperialistic move after another.
We can’t go back to September 12, 2001 and get a do over. We are where we are. But isn’t it time for us as a nation to (religious language alert!) repent of our own misdeeds? I mean repent in the truly spiritual meaning of turning and going in a new direction, back to God (or back to our highest principles, back to the goodness in which we were created) and doing it better.
What would that look like? Would it diminish us as a nation? Would it signal to the world that the US has gone soft? I don’t think so. We could have done it 13 years ago. Instead we chose war.
When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?