Since becoming largely disabled due to a heart condition in early September, one of the things I have been able to do is spend more time reading! Way back in the day, I used to read 3-4 books of an average 450 pages each, every week. But then … I began blogging, Donald Trump came on the scene, the clowns took over the country, and my days and nights were suddenly filled with trolling the news and writing 2-3 blog posts every day. Reading for pleasure took a backseat and I was lucky to read 100 pages a week. But now, being unable to leave my chair for more than a few minutes at a time, I am once again a voracious reader and have read, on average, 6-7 books every week.
One of the topics that is near and dear to my heart is September 11, 2001. When I became ill in early September, I had just started working on a 20-year-anniversary post, but never managed to finish it. I don’t know that I ever will, but among the books I have read over the past three months are a couple of 9/11 books, the most recent being “The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11” by Garrett M. Graff. This book is composed of thousands of personal accounts of that day, from the North and South towers to the Pentagon to the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where flight 93 was brought down by passengers determined to fight back against the hijackers.
As I read those personal accounts of people … thousands of people … firefighters, police officers, government workers and civilians … risking and often losing their own lives in their attempt to help people, I couldn’t help thinking of this country today, some 20 years later. What a difference!!!
When I was working on my master’s degree, I worked for a professor of Political Science, the late Dr. Joseph Scolnick, at the University of Virginia. I well remember one paper I helped him research that proposed the most effective way to bring about cohesion within a divided nation was an external threat. Throughout history, some countries have even manufactured external threats in order to bring their citizenry together. We saw a prime example of how an external threat brought people together with our own eyes in the hours and days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when people went out of their way, out of their comfort zone, even in one case buying a brand-new truck and donating it to the rescue efforts! Shop owners opened their doors and their hearts to the injured, the displaced, and the traumatized. There were no strangers on that day. And I wonder …
With the current level of divisiveness in this country today, largely magnified and enhanced by the former guy and his puppets, if we suffered a similar attack, would we rise to the occasion as we did on September 11, 2001? Or would we remain so politically divided that each side would point the fingers of blame at the other? Would racism, religious differences and ideological divides keep us from coming together in the interest of humanity? Would a Republican risk his life to run into a burning building to carry a Democrat out? Would we, the average people in this nation, pitch in to help in any way we could, or would we find ways to attack and denigrate one group or another?
I have no answers for those questions. I like to believe that we would, once again, rally to the cause, come together as humans, setting aside our differences, but I find it difficult to believe most days when I see the pure hatred between ethnicities, religions, and political parties. A year and a half ago, when COVID first hit the U.S. hard, I thought this would be the thing that brought this nation together, the enemy we could all join hands and fight against. Instead, the pandemic has further divided us over such things as masks, social distancing, legislation, and vaccines. Even after more than 818,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, we cannot all agree to do what is necessary to protect both ourselves and others, so why would I think we would rush into a burning building to save a stranger?
As I said, I have no answers, but I ask only that you … think about it.