The Blessing of Divisiveness

I really dislike September 11.

I’m sure there were good things that happened on September 11, 2001.

Babies were born.
People were married.
Birthdays were celebrated.

But all these were overshadowed by commercial airlines flown by terrorists crashing into buildings containing people.
People like you and me.
People who dreaded a Monday morning.
People who enjoyed a walk on a beach and a dinner with loved ones.
People with 1.75 children.
People with two slightly mischievous dogs.
They were civilians involuntarily involved in a war they didn’t initiate.

On September 11, 2001, I was preparing to give my first quiz in my first year of teaching at IWU. Back in the day when I had a 5 minute commute, I was on my way out the door when I caught a glimpse of a building on fire. Not sure if it was current news or where the building was, I headed out the door. The day had to continue.

Even by the time I got to work across the street, the details were coming in. My tender-hearted secretary tearfully filled me in on the details. It was a commercial airliner. It was the World Trade Center. Thousands of people had just arrived to work. Hundreds if not thousands were dead already. But the day had to continue.

I taught three sections of lab that day, getting updates from the secretary in between classes.
Each report was bleaker than the one before.
A second building was hit.
One tower fell.
Then the other.
The Pentagon.
A field in Pennsylvania.

I just wanted to cancel classes for the day. How can we talk about tissues of the body when it we’ve just gone to war against a vicious enemy?

It was a terrible unforgettable day.

If there was anything good to come of that day, I believe it was that it united America against its enemies. The terrorists awoke the “sleeping giant.” We were unified in our anger and in our tears. For weeks, there was an outpouring of love for victims, and a grounding of so many normal activities. We sat huddled around our televisions and loved ones until we couldn’t bear to watch anymore. We were united in our anger, our grief, and our love.

Over time, it changed.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I remember hearing the first words of dissention.
Whose fault was this?
Which President failed?
Should we really go to war?
Who are our enemies anyway?

The questions angered me.
They were not unifying.
They were divisive.
Questions meant to pull us apart and point fingers.

And for ten years, the questions have only become more heated. We no longer focus on foreign enemies seeking to attack us. We attack each other across the political aisle. The political tension in America is palpable. Much worse than pre-war days. Tough words are hurled at opponents. No one seems happy with how things are going.

What happened to the days when we were so united? We were all angry at the same people, loved the same people, and leaned on each other in our time of grief. Now it seems we want to pin each other against the wall about everything.

In a strange way, I suppose this is what we are fighting FOR. We are fighting for the right to express our opinions, our individuality. If I want others to hear my opinions, I must hear the opinions of others, even if I vehemently disagree. So while this muddled anger and finger-pointing is frustrating, it also brings a peculiar sense of victory.We are fighting against those who would take away our freedom to speak our minds. The fact that we are even allowed to dissent and disagree with each other is a privilege worth fighting for. So even in our arguing, we are fighting together to defend our First Amendment Right.

We are united by our divisiveness, and it’s a privilege I’m thankful to have.


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