I find myself, on today of all days, to be devoid of any substantial amount of patriotism or any sense of national identity. Sadness and pain in reflection of the people who died eleven years ago I find ample enough, but to say that I connect their loss to any sense of pride in America is a stretch.
Maybe the patriotic fire has been snuffed out by the knowledge that in the last eleven years enough people have died in the reactionary measures of the Bush Administration and their continuation under President Obama. Perhaps I never felt any particular pride in American citizenship from the start, and I only see governmental institutions as a means to a social and economic end.
Whatever the reason, I feel today makes me identify to humanity as a whole, and less to the people who live within the lines in the sand we call America. Neither side was right to cause the incident, but the event clearly states a message I have begun to understand during what short time I have had on earth. We need to stop looking at Democrats and Republicans, Americans and Arabs, countries and nations, or religions and philosophies as something to be contested. We can only truly learn from disaster by recognizing its cause: hatred and partisanship that only divides men and turns them upon each other.
Leip, a 9-year old Sudanese refugee I tutor as part of a service project at Creighton University, sat down next to me today and asked what September 11th was. I explained that eleven years ago today, planes hit two buildings in New York and a lot of people died. He asked me why, but I couldn’t give an answer simple enough for a nine year old boy to understand. I just told him I didn’t know.
Another boy, another refugee, heard us talking and asked “Why are you talking about this?”
I said “We talk about it because it is sad.”
He told me “If it makes you sad, then don’t talk about it” and walked away.
Leip, however, understood why we talked about it. While he was too young to understand the situation, he understood why everyone felt sad. His point of view, simple and clear, sparked a train of thought in my mind that has been with me since.
To understand the situation and truly benefit from it, I feel like I am much like Leip. I understand the sadness and try my best to understand its causes. In the end, I come to the idea that humanity needs to recognize the good of every person, for their own sake. So today, I ask that we all put aside our differences and recognize the good in other people, so that maybe this world can change for the better.
-Nick O’Brien, Cortinian