To commemorate 20 years:
Twenty years ago, for a VERY BRIEF MOMENT in time, the American people woke up. Not only did they understand for the first time that there were people in the world that wanted them dead – wanted to bring a country built on liberty principles to its knees – but Americans ALSO woke up to the fact that their fellow Americans WERE NOT THE ENEMY. Empathy was an all-time high because we were actually feeling what EVERYONE else WAS feeling. We had an INTENSE SHARED TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE and petty and political division disappeared as contempt was replaced with TRUE, AUTHENTIC EMPATHY.
We said, “We will always remember” – “We will never forget.” But I think we have forgotten.
So...what should we try to remember now, 20 years later?
Remember the stories of the lost – their last words said over telephone lines. The love they had for their families – we probably knew some of them – and after their stories came out, we FELT like we knew them.
Remember the courage of the passengers on Flight 93 – CIVILIANS who fought back and gave their lives so more Americans did not have to die – and the symbol of our government – the one founded on liberty principles – the Capitol Building – was not destroyed.
Remember the heroism of first responders – the ones who led people to safety, those who engaged in the rescue effort, those who died, and remember realizing for the first time that these HEROES SIGNED UP FOR THAT – to come to our aid - regardless of what we believe or what political affiliation we have -- and for that, they deserve HONOR and RESPECT.
Remember our military service members and veterans – a completely volunteer and thus virtuous military – I am not saying all service member are virtuous as individual people – but if you know Aquinas, nothing is virtuous unless voluntary – and these are men and women who VOLUNTARILY put their lives on the line for the principles and ideals this country was built upon - EVERY DAY.
Remember “September 12th” – The feeling of American unity – even PATRIOTISM – which is somehow now a bad word – but remember the American unity that led to everyday kindness – the kind that only comes with authentic EMPATHY.
Remember the strength that comes with the SOLIDARITY OF THE FREE WORLD. Why do you think we had so many allies in Afghanistan and even Iraq all these years…because they believed in our foundational principles and ideals of liberty and virtue – and an attack against US was an attack against those foundational principles – and thus an attack against ALL freedom-loving people across the globe.
Remember the search for MEANING. The search for spiritual truth, the search for God, the search for hope.
And remember…WE ARE AT WAR. And it was never about oil or the body count or even boots on the ground. This is a war of ideas and ideology. It is a war for hearts and minds…It is also a war of freedom v. fear, a war of liberty v. tyranny.
The “war on terror” was easiest to identify in Jihadists because they are clear about their intentions. Osama bin Laden was clear about this war. ISIS was clear about this war, Al Qaeda IS clear, the TALIBAN is clear about this. Iran is clear about this – which is why it is easy to point to jihadism, because even though this ideological war exists in other places, is not as obvious anywhere else – yet even though the jihadists are VERY CLEAR that this is a war for hearts and minds – freedom v. fear, liberty v. tyranny – we stopped listening. We FORGOT.
Remember…the end of the war is declared only when one side completely surrenders to the other – So...do not surrender to fear and tyranny.
2,996 (including the 19 hijackers) people died in the 9/11 attacks – and their deaths WOKE AMERICANS UP. We OWED it to them to NOT FALL ASLEEP AGAIN. But we did. We fell asleep.
2,455 US service members gave their lives in Afghanistan and according to my addition based on figures from a government website 3,481 (I think) died in the War on Terror – TO CREATE VERY THE CIRCUMSTANCES in which it was POSSIBLE to fall asleep again.
And...we did...WE FELL ASLEEP. My generation DROPPED THE BALL, and I am SO SORRY.
If we had not forgotten, we would be full of empathy instead of moral superiority and hatred.
If we had not forgotten, we would be unified instead of divided.
If we had not forgotten, we would not see liberty-minded Americans as our enemies.
If we had not forgotten, we would recognize FEAR as the enemy of freedom (and we would remember that was something we ALL used to believe in)…
If we had not forgotten, our churches would be full instead of empty.
If we had not forgotten, we would not dishonor first responders like our police officers and fire fighters.
If we had not forgotten, we would not dishonor our military service men and women nor our veterans.
If we had not forgotten, we would not be blinded to the war for hearts and minds that continues to swirl around us.
If we had not forgotten, we would recognize evil and NOT celebrate it, but fight against it.
If we had not forgotten…
Again, it was up to those of us who DO remember to explain to those not old enough to remember WHY it is important to “never forget"...And I am so sorry we failed you.
And I am also sorry to tell you... WE ARE STILL AT WAR – and it is a battle for hearts and minds. Tyranny is on the march, and it is winning over hearts and minds through fear and force, but also through manipulation and deception...And tyranny’s march won’t stop just because we give in...In fact, if we voluntarily surrender our liberty, tyranny will WIN.
Commemorate Patriot Day this year by standing for freedom - and against evil and tyranny.
And please shake off the slumber, REMEMBER - and vow to NEVER AGAIN FORGET.