Photo 365 #35

flags.jpg

I was 17 when the twin towers fell.  It was one of the scariest days of my life, and I was nearly 1100 miles away from Ground Zero.

I watched the events unfold that day on the news.  I saw the first plane hit just before I left for school, and I spent the rest of the day watching the news – no one seemed able to turn it off.  Everyone was in a panic.

Propaganda abounded in the days that followed – I still have a few things that circulated after the attacks.  “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” is still a favorite song, and every time I hear it, I’m reminded of the days and weeks after September 11, 2001, when patriotism was at a high point and all my friends wanted to enlist to kick Osama where it counted.

But these stickers also hail from that era, as do the ones beneath them.  And every last one depicts a peace sign, whether it’s one like in this picture or a frog holding up two fingers.  I was afraid the attacks on New York would hurtle us headlong into a war the likes of which hadn’t been seen in sixty years.  I feared my home would be the next target.  I feared a lot of things, but I also prayed for peace.

Even at 17, I knew that not all Muslims are the same, just as not all Jews are the same, not all Christians are the same, not all Hindus are the same.  Extremists and terrorists exist in all cultures, all religions, and we shouldn’t judge the majority of a culture by the acts of the minority.  I hoped that my country would emerge from the ashes of that day stronger and more resilient.

Tonight, after supper was cleaned up and Bubbles had opened his birthday gifts, we sat down to watch Star Trek: Voyager.  We watched the episode, “Heroes and Demons,” because it was next in line as part of our series rewatch, and I was surprised by how appropriate it seemed.  Freya and the Doctor’s conversation about feeling afraid and alone particularly caught my attention, because if there’s one thing that’s changed in this country in the last thirteen years, it’s that people seem more afraid than ever.

Look at our political ads, look at our police departments, look at recent legislation.  It’s all about fear – fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of losing control.  So much of the public discourse is given over to discussing fear – where was this fear thirteen years ago?

I don’t know.  I don’t remember feeling so afraid about everything then.  Maybe part of that was the usual teenage invincibility syndrome, but I think a larger part of it was that we were more open then, in all senses.  America was like the girl next door who goes out to a party, thinking the best of everyone, and then some punk boy takes advantage of her and she grows bitter and fearful; she loses her faith in mankind and her trust in her neighbors.  America now is bitter and jaded, just like that hypothetical girl.

After thirteen long years of war that has done very little good and very much harm, I continue to pray for peace, and I continue to hope that we will emerge from this long nightmare a wiser and more cautious nation.

(c) 2014.  All rights reserved.

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10 thoughts on “Photo 365 #35

  1. Mara Eastern says:

    This is a beautiful essay on a subject that is often written about. You wrote with grace and wisdom — and the last sentence just nails it. I was 18 at 9/11 and I remember I didn’t fear excessively — of course, Czech Republic is very far away, too, and not exactly a viable target, I thought — in contrast, my mother was terrified. You must be right that young people just don’t fear things so much. Well, I also wish that all countries acted wiser…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Thanks, Mara! The more I compare and contrast the world I grew up in with the world I live in now, it seems that things look much bleaker now than they used to. Our media and our politicians have done a bang-up job disseminating their own fears, and I’m beginning to feel like I’m living in an Orwell novel. It’s a strange thought. And when I read The Hunger Games, I couldn’t help noting the similarities between Panem and America. I think that was the scariest part of all in those books, the thought that our society could be devolving into something so horrific.

      Like

      • Mara Eastern says:

        Well, it’s hard to say if my world is bleaker too than it was when I was younger. It’s obviously very different in a post-communist country than in the US. But I do have the feeling that the society has been regressing to something nasty rather than developing forwards recently. I’m afraid there’s very little an individual can do against it though…

        Like

        • Kay Kauffman says:

          I think you’re right about society regressing, and about the power of the individual. That’s the worst part. And I think it’s part of what’s wrong in this country – everyone feels that there’s so little an individual can do, so why bother trying? It’s how all the fearmongers keep their seats in Congress. Instead of haggling over which “threats” should be dealt with overseas and which programs should be defunded so that we can keep funneling money into the War on Terror, I wish they would ask their constituents what they would like done and then actually do it.

          Of course, they’d all lose their seats then…

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          • Mara Eastern says:

            Yesterday I went past the TV (which I normally don’t watch) and saw politicians arguing about how to call the Islamic State — to be politically, historically, geographically and I-don’t-know-how correct. I couldn’t believe they were serious. Instead of doing something, they were arguing how to call those people. I’m still angry when I think of that…

            Liked by 1 person

          • Kay Kauffman says:

            In college, I took a science class called “Episodes in the History of Science.” My professor spent the first day explaining that what he’d originally wanted to call the class was much longer, and then went on to explain the origins of each word in the title he finally settled on. It was an English lecture, not a science class.

            While I found it both entertaining and informative (and proof that I had chosen the right science class), most of my classmates were bored stiff. They didn’t care what he wanted to call it. They didn’t care about the history of the specific words he’d used to craft the name of his class. They just wanted to pass the class and get on with life.

            In the grand scheme of things, is it really that important what we call the people who make up the Islamic State? I doubt it. Personally, I’d much rather people do something to stop them from capturing more territory than sit around arguing all day about their correct name.

            Like

          • Mara Eastern says:

            A nice story. Arguing about what to call something and what not belongs, as you quite rightly suggest, in the academia. It shouldn’t be a foreign policy. But enough of that depressive talk! I’m happy to see you going on with your Project 365 and generally enjoying your posts 🙂 It’s nice to see your family in your posts too!

            Liked by 1 person

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