In the wake of our many remembrance ceremonies commemorating the sad and tragic events of September 11, 2001, I had a time-warp moment.
Like most Americans, I remember where I was when the planes struck the World Trade Center. I didn’t have a TV in front of me, I only heard about it as I sat waiting in my son’s school office. A teacher walked in and told the rest of the staff, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center!” I thought it must have been an accident and wondered how it might have happened. Did the pilot lose consciousness? Did the plane’s instrumentation fail? I didn’t even realize yet, that it was a commercial plane that had been involved.
In the hours and days following that event, I watched as the people around me dissolved into one unifying fury. Everyone was angry. Everyone was fearful, and so was I. Yet, even in the first hours and days of this American tragedy, I had thoughts different from the people I knew. I tried to put myself in the terrorists’ shoes. I wondered what in the world it would take for me to choose to willingly end my own life and the lives of so many other husbands, wives, sons, and sisters. I cautiously and tenderly asked aloud of friends and co-workers, “How bad did life have to be in order for them to agree to do something like this?” And as our nation began its spiraling descent into the days of retaliation, detainment, torture, and war, I mused aloud, “What if we decided to drop food and information to these targets, instead of bombs?”
I wonder where we would be right now if our nation had chosen to “Go high”—as Michelle Obama put it— instead of sinking low. Because that’s what we did. As a nation in the aftermath of our worst terror attack, the singular note played was “Revenge.”
That guttural call for retribution has done our country more damage than any terror attack possibly could. In the name of anti-terrorism, we surrendered our right to freedom from surveillance of our calls, email, and social media usage. We approved racial profiling. We surrendered our right to due process. We condoned torture. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 succeeded in their goal to demolish far more of our nation than the World Trade Center or The Pentagon. These terrorists were victorious, we allowed them to render us a terrorized nation.
Our government officials quickly became complicit in this terrorizing effect, even though we are told the actual attack originated with people on the other side of the world. The power they have gleaned from routinely threatening us with the dangers of another 9/11 has so far proven unstoppable. The Patriot Act and other national security policies have served to empower the government and hold Americans in fear. No longer does our government derive its power FROM citizens, rather it now wields power OVER the lives of its citizens. And it does so with the consent of the governed, in the name of safety. We have been fooled into believing that by continuing to surrender our freedoms, we can improve and increase our safety. In our fear, we have become more and more willing to do exactly that.
Fast forward to the present day, and the presidential election that looms before us. As I listen to the constant stream of hate-filled rhetoric spoken by Donald Trump, it makes me think about these 9/11 terrorists. They hijacked a plane and flew it into the World Trade Center. Donald Trump hijacks our unity and flies hate groups into clashes against the scapegoated. He is an expert terrorist, summoning up the nation’s worst elements of bigotry and misogyny. He gleefully embraces an unbridled lust for violence and incites his followers to unleash their anger, their fear and their frustrated sense of entitlement upon their fellow Americans and anyone else who strikes them as different. He frames his speeches carefully in order to elicit the greatest possible fear in his supporters.
Then, like a maestro, he points to an easily targeted group and lets loose a storm of hatred and division. Not only does he stir the deepest fears in his own followers—whipping them into a hate-filled frenzy at his rallies—he also introduces fear into people who are rational, tolerant and kind. We fear him and we fear his followers.
We are being constantly bombarded by outrage after outrage of misogyny, racism, and division. And we are terrified of the slightest possibility that this man might win in November as we envision a nation where minorities dare not leave their home for fear of hate groups loose in the streets.
We shudder at the potential fate of our gay parent, our Jewish friend, our black teammate under a Trump administration. While it is true that his power as president would be checked and limited, his influence is already showing up in hate crimes across the nation. A Muslim woman set on fire in NYC. A black activist shot to death. As we were on September 11, 2001, we are now a terrorized nation. The name that terror has taken, is Donald Trump.
How then, can we possibly avoid a repeat of the terrorists’ triumph in separating us from our freedoms and causing us to cower? What course of action can we take to stand united again, fearless and free?
Back in 2011, I asked “What if we chose to drop food and information, instead of bombs?” as I watched our troops embark on the attack. What is the equivalent of that, for today? In my eyes, the answer is to put myself into the shoes of those who stand opposed. What is their motivation? What can they imagine that they will gain by supporting a man like Trump?
I believe the majority of their hatred and violence is a cover for fear and disenfranchisement. If we begin to listen—if we can be in allowance of our differing points of view rather than reject, refuse and resist them—then we can arrive at a place where change can truly begin. I know in every fiber of my being, that we will meet with failure as long as we judge and reject those who sit in opposition.
Trump/Pence 2016 is a symptom. The disease is fear. Our true enemy is terror.
As we did in 2001, we have a clear choice before us. And I am not talking merely about presidential candidates. Our choice, as it has always been, is between love and fear. If we allow our nation to be splintered by our differences—if we perpetuate our fear—the 11/9 announcement of a Trump win could be nothing less than our nation’s next 9/11.
More by author Raven Anne Quigley:
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