“Who Can Say Where the Road Goes…Only Time.”
“Some plane’s flown into the World Trade Center in New York,” Ray told me, as I walked out of my cottage up at Chautauqua. I shrugged.
Sh*t happens every day, right? I arrived at work and Jeff and Una were hunched over the laptop. A second plane’s hit, they told me.
We didn’t work—and work is all we did, normally. We wound up at Foolish Craig’s, a restaurant we loved that had a TV (way back in 2001, we still turned to TV, first). Everyone in Boulder was wandering around, stunned, silent. Later we gathered at the Corner Bar, and watched President Bush’s speech, praying he wouldn’t turn this sadness and love and outpouring of love for America into war on someone else. He gave a great speech. I sighed with relief.
My uncle Jeffrey lived blocks from the WTC. Filthy ash coated his windows. We all had friends in NY. The phone lines were jammed, we all remember. Flags were taped to front doors of shops. I remember being disappointed that our Buddhist church wouldn’t hang a flag on the front. It’s a symbol of community, I pleaded. Later, I’d be proven wrong.
A nation, and world, were inspired by those firefighters: they ran toward danger. Everyone wanted to wear an FDNYC cap or sweatshirt. Ballplayers wore ’em.
Nothing I can say or feel about 9/11 hasn’t been said or felt by others, already. That’s what makes this day so powerful: we all shared the same moment. What we did after…that was as different and disparate as our great, partisan nation. But those first days and weeks…I remember that Enya song [below], playing on the radio. I remember photos of people all over the small world holding up the stars n’stripes in solidarity against violence.
And then we got violent. The America I grew up being proud of, and wanting to serve—the America I still love—is the adult at the table. Mature, big about things, idealistic, brilliant. Like Superman. Our Founding Fathers—a collection of human beings every one as genius as any of the great women and men we’ve known in the 200 years since.
I love this big country, with all our speed or arrogance or anger, —I understand it. Thing is, in times of fear, it’s easy to be angry. But why do we love this country? Individual liberty, collective compassion—not the Patriot Act, not TSA, not killing civilians in the name of fighting terrorism—which can best be defined as the deliberate killing of civilians, or innocents.
I’m proud of President Obama. He’s tried, without much support on the left (yes, you) and with a knee-jerk “No!,” bigoted, game-playing right, to support the melting pot, can-do, middle-class American dream. Time was, I could have voted for Abe or Ike or Teddy. Now, I look to Huntsman or Paul, and see things I like. But Bachmann? Perry? Romney? They’re good looking action figures for a partisan sport, not public servants.
These are the best of times, the worst of times. There’s 100x more farmers’ markets than there were just 20 years back (I just interviewed conservative, God-loving Joel Salatin, a farmer who eloquently embodies many of elephant’s values). On the other hand, 99% of our crops are GMOs owned by a corporation dedicated only to its own bottomline, and childhood obesity and diabetes is rampant.
So where does this American road go? I can’t wait to walk it. We’ve been given so much by this country. Let’s give back by living ordinary life, properly. This is a time for love. Family. For activism. For meditation, and outdoor sports, bicycling, and independent film. For entrepreneurship. For doing the dishes and ending factory farming and enjoying fairly-sourced coffee.
I love what elephant, closing in on 1 million unique readers a month (Google Analytics) is becoming—and what that is can’t be pinned down. It’s infinitely diverse confluence of backgrounds and interests—it’s community, kula, sangha.
It’s what we saw after 9/11: a nation joined by compassion—not a nation separated by fear.