One of the proudest moments of my life followed by just a few days one of the most disheartening.
Sept. 11, 2001, of course, was the date of the attack on America by terrorists that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, damaged the Pentagon and might well have crashed into the White House if not for the courage of the passengers on United Flight 93.
We were all a little – or a lot – shook up and angry. It opened up a scary panorama of a shadowy kind of war that could strike at any place and any time. Everything was uncertain.
But we recovered and we pulled together. The president and other leaders reminded us that enemies were not all people of a different faith or skin complexion, but fanatical extremists who might resemble them.
There was a large interfaith ceremony bringing together all creeds and nationalities in the Garden Grove civic center, vowing kin with our neighbors and the serving of swift justice on our attackers.
Americans were united against a common foe. Partisan political divisions may not have disappeared but they faded into the background. It was a great tragedy that was in some ways a great honor. Americans all.
How far we have come from that day! We are now experiencing another national tantrum in which The Other Side of the American Public is either stupid or, at worst, evil. Common ground has largely been abandoned. Life in our nation has become one vast zero sum game in which if any other person, party or group succeeds, it’s a loss to the others.
Compromise had become a dirty word. Unity is regarded as a synonym for surrender. We have taken to angry arguments based on pronouns, propaganda and impatience. Science and education are worshipped by one camp, and insulted by another, and not always on partisan lines. The ages-old struggle between emotion and reason is tipping strongly toward the former.
What happened to the Spirit of 2001 in this Dispirited Year of 2023? It’s the Era of Amnesia.
In the movie “Excalibur” Merlin says – in terms that apply today – “It is the curse of men, that they forget.”