Today, on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, let’s regain that focus. Let’s keep our attention where it should be.
We’ll grant this: This week’s Quran-burning escapade by Florida pastor Terry Jones has been deeply and profoundly discomforting. Say what you will about the Quran, about Islam, or about Jones’ First Amendment rights for his warped brand of religion. But in no way has the pastor’s misguided thoughts on Muslims’ holy verses served a worthwhile purpose.
This nation, and its people, is better than that.
Likewise, mark the ongoing commotion over the possible construction of an Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero as a headline that annoys more than it informs. Here, the Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck right-wing crew has done this nation no favors, their fiery comments against what they wrongly label the “Ground Zero mosque” are only fueling religious intolerance at home and anti-American beliefs abroad.
In the heat of such volatile discord, rational thinking and negotiations often seem impossible.
It is difficult to ignore the thunder from those opposed to the NYC Islamic center or the imbecilic actions by the Florida pastor, but this weekend that should be Americans’ goal. We owe that to those who died, and to their families, to treat the 9/11 remembrance as it deserves.
We also owe it to the world to re-examine what this nation has done to preach its vision of peace. Too often Islamic radicals succeed by casting America as the “Great Satan” of the West. That vision is made easier by U.S. policy that has focused more on the military’s years-long presence in Afghanistan, where the 9/11 hunt for Osama bin Laden rolls on, and Iraq, which the U.S. invaded in a needless pre-emptive war.
Sadly, the Bush and Obama administrations have both failed with their mediocre efforts to win over the hearts and minds of peace-loving Muslims around the world. Obama’s heralded Cairo speech in 2009 offered a primer of possibilities, but it has been followed by few, if any, tangible gains. The White House must do better.
The Muslim world has to see the United States as a friend of people of peace, and as an enemy only of those radicals who respond to peace with terror and violence. That critical distinction our nation must re-emphasize.
In this age of sharp political rhetoric and heated exchanges over minor issues, it would soothe this nation’s soul if the best of the post-9/11 emotions would again emerge. As horrible as that day was, its aftermath saw people of all races, of divergent political beliefs, join hands in a unique time in American history. That’s the correct vision for the world to see.
Our differences didn’t dissolve, but they were put aside temporarily for the betterment of the nation. They became an indelible sign of our modern-day capabilities.
Sept. 11 is a day to reflect on those lost, on the families who still bear those scars. It’s a day to honor those whose bravery shined. And it’s a day to think about this nation’s mettle, of the beliefs it espouses, and how we want this nation to move forward. This day should not be overshadowed by minor topics that divert our attention.
Today, Americans are divided politically, troubled financially, on different sides of countless issues. But when we come together, when we join, our greatness shines through.