I love the United States. As an 80’s and 90’s kid growing up in America I was blessed with a number of luxuries, including perhaps the best education system of any country in the world. My American education taught me how to respond sensibly to most real-life situations. Thankfully, we Americans are well-equipped to deal with the conflict at hand. We are not easily brainwashed into doing stupid things.
Clearly, the 9/11 pilots did not have this ability. They didn’t understand American freedom. They didn’t know us, or what good people we tend to be. Nor did they bother to understand what America stands for.
Instead, they trusted their terrorist leaders, and decided to sacrifice their lives based on the prevailing ideologies of their particular religious, political, and social circles.
Can I, as a citizen in the greatest nation in the world, learn anything from “militant Islam”?
On September 11th, this question was not among my concerns as I watched fellow-Americans bleeding and crying and dying on TV. The news and political commentary that day, and in the days that followed, fueled me with an intense (and irrational) sense of patriotism: “I want to kill every Muslim on the planet no questions asked! I’ll drop out of college to fight them! I’ll join the Marines, and learn how to kill them! I’ll go to that God-forsaken desert, and I won’t stop fighting until every last camel jockey towel-head motherfucker on the planet is dead and buried and bound for hell!”
As time passed, though, so did my adrenaline rush. My desire to sacrifice everything to kill some Arabs subsided, as has my irrational hatred for anyone who shares a common religious background or skin tone with the guys that flew 9/11 jets. I stopped thinking about how to make myself feel better, and started to take a more goal-oriented approach.
How can we prevent more 9/11s? Is there something Bill O’Reilly’s not mentioning on Fox News? Is it really true that all Arabs are terrorists who hate American “freedom”? Could anyone, no matter how uneducated, be willing to give their lives simply because they’re angry that capitalism flourishes in New York City? Do terrorists really despise “our children”, or are they frustrated with our government and its incessant political and military endeavors which, they may feel, threaten THEIR children?
Eventually I realized Americans have more in common with the enemy than most of us would like to admit. Like the world trade center bombers we know little about folks from other parts of the world. And like terrorists, we often find it easy and comfortable to trust whatever our leader has to say about them.
Now our leader says the enemy is here, in America: the enemy is “militant Islam,” which includes any Arab-American who hasn’t cut off all ties loved ones in the Middle East. Should we respond to our leaders with blind faith, as the terrorist pilots did to bin Laden?
I have a better idea: let’s break the cycle. Let’s do our own thinking for a change, instead of counting on our government to do it for us, as we do with bridge-building and hurricane protection.