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Reflections on 9/11


Sep 11, 2011
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This is a repost of an essay... I'm not allowed to share links yet, but I thought it was worth posting the full text. Feel free to share with others without editing or taking credit:

I am a New Yorker. I was born here and have lived in or near New York City all my life. When terrorists attacked on September 11, 2001, I made a promise to myself to not let the terrorists win. They hoped to change forever the behavior of Americans, so I decided to not be less of an American because of fear and terror. It is now September 11, 2011, and I’m writing this to remind myself of the things I’ve done.

I decided not to become more partisan in my politics because of the things terrorists have done. That’s what terrorists want... they want us to be fighting against each other so violently that we destroy ourselves. So I do not scream and yell at people who have different political views than I do. I work for compassion and understanding. By working together we can accomplish so much more than by standing apart. By not dividing ourselves into two camps and developing fear and hatred of our own people, we can stand united against any threat. If you find yourself blaming people of another political party for all the problems the terrorists have caused, you are helping the terrorists to avoid blame.

I decided not to abandon justice in the face of fear. America is a place where everyone is guaranteed the right to due process of law. To suggest that terrorists should be found and hanged immediately without trial, or tortured until they die, is understandable given the trauma people have faced, but it is not the American way. In America you are given a fair trial and a fair punishment. This is decided by the court system and not by mob rule. If we abandon our laws, if we strike out in anger and panic, then we are letting the terrorists have what they want. Upholding justice is more American than getting revenge.

I decided not to hate all Muslims because of the actions of a few. One of the greatest traits of America, and of New York in particular, is that it is a place where anyone can come from anywhere and be accepted (eventually, anyway). The terrorists who struck on 9/11 wanted to inspire fear, so I will not be afraid of Muslims. I refuse to think of a mosque in Manhattan any differently than I would think of a church, cathedral, or temple. I refuse to become a racist just because terrorists want me to be afraid. If you hate Muslims, the terrorists win. If you let fear and distrust grow in your hearts, the terrorists win. But if you accept people of all races, if you learn about and live with people of all faiths, if you think of all those who want to make a home here as fellow Americans, then you, yourself, are more American. Unless you are exclusively descended from Native peoples, you too are from an immigrant family. And America didn’t turn its back on your family just because they were from an unpopular religion or a country that is feared. America accepts everyone, no matter who they are. Just as the section of Emma Lazarus poetry says on the big statue in the harbor: "Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

I decided to not go places where I know I would be searched. I understand the need for increased security in the U.S., but liberty is one of the traits that Americans have clung to and called their own since the beginning of this nation. So every time I’ve heard that police would be conducting random searches in an area, I decided to go around that place. Every time I saw a security checkpoint in a subway station, I walked to the next station. I made one exception to this rule for my sister’s wedding (because I couldn’t figure a way to take the train across the country that didn’t involve me taking two weeks off of work) but aside from that I have kept to my policy these past ten years. I am an American citizen and my private possessions are my own business, so I decided to not let the terrorists win by opening up my stuff for authorities to rifle through. It’s almost a cliché to quote it at this point, as so many others have already done so, but Benjamin Franklin was dead-on when he wrote: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
I decided to support alternative energy, and to be a conserver of energy, as much as possible. Our dependence on oil is one of the main reasons for the state of the Middle East. The piles of money we give to oil producers have found their way into the pockets of people who spend that money to strike against America. So I have done my best to encourage doing things differently. I seek out ways to use less oil, whether it be conserving gas or not wastefully consuming plastic. I support and invest in those companies that want to develop cleaner energy technologies. I want my country to not be held on a leash by those who have the best interests of the oil business at heart, rather than our own.

I decided not to support politicians who prey on our fears and uncertainties. If a politician tries to make you support him or her by making you fear terrorism, that candidate is taking advantage of the tragedy that took thousands of lives for his or her own personal gain. If a politician drives you to be suspicious of your neighbors, that politician is breaking apart America, not saving it. If a politician rides into office by labeling his or her opponent as a Muslim-lover, that politician is spreading the exact kind of fear terrorists want us to feel. I refuse to vote for people who make the jobs of terrorists easier by making us more afraid. Americans are defined by their bravery and should not choose their leaders based on who paints the most frightening picture of the future.

So these are the things I have strived to do. You may disagree with some of them. I’m fine with that. In America each of us must stand up for what we think is right. But I beg you not to give in to fear and abandon those things that our founding fathers held most dear. We are Americans, and we will stand up to whatever the future brings... honestly, openly, bravely, with liberty and with justice. We will not let the terrorists win.

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