Once upon a time, we all came together for a common purpose, for the greater good, for a cause that was ours and so much greater, for–literally–the sake of the world. Once upon a time, we were not united by nationalism but by our collective humanity.
Once upon a time, the entire world was on fire and the only way to stop it was to get involved. It was the last just war, the time when everyone had to give a little–or a lot. When everyone got involved in some way. When our country was struggling economically and forced into a conflict that brought all of civilization to the brink. Where our nation may have been the most alive as it was faced with the most to lose.
How quickly we forgot that sentiment. As WWII came to an end and our country emerged stronger and more economically stable, when we cared for our neighbor (or even knew who they were), when we understood what it meant to lose it all and appreciated getting some back. How quickly we forgot when, 20 years later, we were thrown into a national climate of division. When we were once again involved in a war–one many will argue we never should have gotten involved in. When soldiers returned home wounded and broken–spat upon and shunned, in spite of the fact that they were still fighting a war that may not ever leave them inside. When no one could agree on politics. When civil rights reached a violent climax and so many had to be convinced to see things differently than they–or anyone in their family ever had.
Bring it forward another 30 or so years. To the most recent horrific tragedy in our nation. An act of terror so unforeseen and stunning that made us feel like we were collectively gut-punched. And then, within the next few days and weeks, we were collectively joined as a nation of people who once again understood what it meant to stand in solidarity with our neighbors. When we once again knew who our neighbors were. When we were joined in our collective humanity, not by our nationalistic unity.
But in the ten years since 9/11, how quickly we’ve forgotten. We’ve forgotten who we are. We no longer look after those around us. We’ve seen more war than any moment in our history. We’ve stood on the sidelines as thousands of innocent Afghan and Iraqi men, women, and children have been murdered or abused at our hands. We’ve forgotten what it means to give a little–or a lot for the common goals that should be higher than ourselves. We stopped thinking about logical conclusions. We stopped looking out for others in order to serve our own selfish desires. At least we no longer spit on our troops.
At some point, instead of demanding Medicare and Social Security (all the while screaming “Socialist!” when it comes to any other government program), instead of refusing to pay a little more in taxes (even though the people who legitimately could pay more think they’re money will run out in 6 years instead of 6 lifetimes), instead of pointing fingers only at the guy in the Oval Office, maybe we should examine ourselves. Maybe we should think about what we can all give for the greater goal. Maybe we should stop fighting over debt ceilings and come to the middle. Maybe we should come to the middle on a lot of things. Maybe we should remember that this experiment we call the United States probably exists and is successful (in spite of ourselves) by the grace of God…and then start acting like we are all children of God. Maybe then we’ll be less concerned about Democrat, Republican, Tea Party or Progressive; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist; military or civilian; black, white, Hispanic, or Asian; gay or straight. Maybe then we’ll be less inclined to be self-serving. Maybe then, we’ll stop operating out of a base of fear. Maybe then, we’ll once again be…collectively human.