Every generation has historical events that are associated with that generation. My grandparents, who were born at the beginning of the 20th century, were children during World War I, coming of age during the Great Depression, and raising families during World War II.
My parents were born during the Great Depression, children during World War II, coming of age during the Korean Conflict, and raising families during the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement.
My generation was born after World War II during a time when the United States was investing in education and the middle class. We were coming of age during the Cold War, Vietname War, Civil Rights, the Women’s Movement, and raising families during the explosion of technology, upward mobility and globalization.
My two sons were born at the end of the 1970s. They graduated from college in 2000 and 2001 and were launching their professional lives when September 11, 2001 occurred. Their friends were enlisting and their friends’ parents who were in the National Guard, many of whom had never been deployed, were being called up to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
My granddaughters were born after 2001. My eldest granddaughter has second grade classmates who are being raised by grandparents because their parents are either deployed or dead because of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Their generation is the first who wasn’t alive when 9/11 happened, but yet are still impacted by the aftermath.
It’s been eleven years since the awful events of September 11, 2001, the master architect of that event, Osama bin Laden, is dead, and yet unlike other wars, this ambiguous War on Terror (or whatever it’s currently called) seems to be permanently etched into our American fiber. It’s no longer an historical event that has come, we move through, we heal from, and move forward. Instead, profiling still occurs (my half-Japanese sons experience this whenever they travel), violence against Muslim and Sikh cemetaries and places of worship has escalated, inflammatory terms are being mainstreamed into our language (One example I read today: “going jihad” used by Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics used in Romney’s Tax Plan Leaves Key Variables Blank).
There is no doubt that the world is a very different place because of 9/11, as well as a lot of other factors. There are still things we must attend to as a result of 9/11, like making sure there is sufficient health care and re-entry resources for those first responders and our returning vets. That is part of the healing we do as a people and that has always been part of our American DNA.
What really concerns me today (literally today, September 11, 2012) is that there are some in our country who do not want to heal; who do not want to move forward; who only want to fuel distrust and bigotry. That’s what I see when I read about escalating violence against Muslims and Sikhs in this country and the completely unnecessary and targeted legislation being put forth in many states.
I’d like to think we can all tap into our higher selves, take the high road, and move out of a culture of fear. However, as a realist, I know I can only do my part and work for the change I’d like to see. I’d like to think that, should my granddaughter fall in love with a Muslim, she would not meet the resistance and discrimination that I met when I married a man of Japanese descent. (Yes, there were churches that would not allow us as a biracial couple to attend and youth groups who would not allow my biracial children to participate).
It’s another 9/11. Now what? I suggest we change the conversation. As we’ve done with every other major historical event that has helped shaped us into the people we are today, how can we take what we’ve learned and apply it to move forward and beyond. We are so much more than one day, any day.