I was sitting in the unemployment office, representing my employer in a hearing about an independent contractor trying to claim unemployment benefits. At one point the hearing was paused for some reason and I went into the waiting room to see the Twin Towers on fire on the TV screens.
In the days that followed, there was a strange serenity everywhere I went. People were kind to each other. More thoughtful in their interactions. There was a quietness everywhere you went, a weird solemnness as we each tried to process what had happened.
And then we lost our way.
We allowed those that benefit from division and hatred to stir our suspicions against each other. Suddenly, every Muslim was “the enemy” and Muslims were expected to defend themselves against the accusation. Guilty until proven innocent. And they were never proven innocent, because if they weren’t a terrorist NOW they would be eventually. Because as people who have never actually read the Quran are quick to point out, that is what the Quran says. And they know it says that because someone told them it does, complete with a line of text pulled out of context.
Our beloved melting pot of individuality and freedom became of cauldron of xenophobia and hatred against “the Other.”
Over the years, that hatred has allowed the worst tendencies of our society to ferment to the top. A perverse tribalism has emerged, fomented by an underlying white supremacy that never really died in this country. Like corrupt cicadas slumbering underground that suddenly burst forth and swarm, the hatred has overwhelmed us. And the more our country moves toward embracing this culture of hate, the more I fear…
…the terrorists won. Maybe they didn’t succeed in immediately destroying us. But they set us on a path to destroy ourselves.