Thursday, September 12, 2013

Family Secrets On A National Level: Why 911 Showcased The Best And Worst Of America.

If you subscribe to the community as an extension of the family metaphor, it’s easier to understand the society we live in. The smaller our circle the more we identify with those inside it. We accept the positive aspects associated within the linguistic frame of community, city, and nation as family, but we often ignore or reject some of the truest negative traits associated with the family. Just like every family has secrets, communities also push hard truths to the margins. Everyone knows a person who defends a family member no matter how wrong they are. It’s no different within a community. This isn't ground breaking; this line of thinking has roots in Plato’s Republic. What I contend is that like a country or a family, we as individuals often refuse to engage in the truth.

I recently had someone ask me if I wanted to attend a meeting. Without hesitation I said no: Why would I attend a meeting where I can get all of the information minus the embellishment and gossip? We rarely want to hear the truth. When you meet someone they don’t say: hi my name is Jim; I cheat on my taxes and kick small dogs. How many times have we dressed up our pasts? This nation is no different. We love our crazy uncles; we wouldn't take them on a job interview, but we defend them when outsiders point out how crazy they are. These aren't opposite sides of a coin; they are the same side of the coin. We like our neighbors a little more than we like the people in the next city. This paradigm applies to our politics and religion. I reflexively defend our nation’s first black president when the attacks are rooted in racial animus. As Americans we defend our country when those outside of our borders call her integrity into question.

Getting back to truth, we have to agree that there are things we can say about our mother’s that we wouldn't let others. We tolerate comments about our mother’s from siblings more than we would a cousin, and even more so than a stranger. We tend to get tribal even inside of our own communities. 911 tore down the walls of separation for many in this country. The black kid in a Houston Rockets Jersey was just a little more American. The guy with the Jacked up pickup truck was seen as a brother in the truest sense of the word. Black, brown, yellow, red, and white Americans united together under one flag. We needed someone we all could hate equally to unite us. I think that’s the saddest truth associated with the events of 911. 

It’s politically correct to say we value all life, but the reality is we (as a nation) have a tiered system in which we view the preciousness of life. An American life is worth more than the life of an Iraqi, an Israeli life is worth more than a Palestinian life, and a baby in Beverly Hills is worth more than a baby in Compton. I didn't make these rules. There will be people who curse me for bringing these things up. They will question my patriotism and think less of me. These same people will do all of this without having the kind of deep Socratic dialog within themselves that calls into question the merit of these remarks.

Back to the truth, we don't want any part of it if possible. The world isn't black and white. All of the good isn’t on one side fighting all of the bad. America is a fragile democracy- the world’s oldest continual constitutional republic, but flawed and imperfect. I love her to the best of my ability, but I won't lie for her. I love her more than the Taliban, but less than someone unwilling to come to grips with her past. I’m not the wife trusting her husband instead of her lying eyes. 911 is a date that typifies the good and the bad in this country. On 9/11/01 we wept as a nation and loved each other a little more. On 9/11/73 our CIA and DIA backed the overthrow of the government of Chile, and installed a puppet regime. Blood was shed and lives were lost. Good and bad weaved together in one red, white, and blue flag.