9/11 and the Conscience of America

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In the opinion of this citizen, the United States is making grave errors in its response to the events of September 11, 2001, and our leaders would be wise to consider a quote from America’s first president, George Washington: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

Since 9/11, taxpayers have spent countless billions pursuing a course that does nothing to address the root causes of that tragedy, instead funding policies guaranteed to provoke more terrorism, and a homeland defense program that has attacked our freedoms while failing to produce greater security.

Indeed, 9/11 has provided an excuse for a plethora of policies that project a deadly arrogance instead of the wisdom of a great nation. Looking beyond our borders, one sees that we are not so much defending ourselves as offending the rest of the world. Rather than promote an America for peace, liberty, and justice for all, we thumb our noses at international law and prepare to shed more blood and dollars in an illegal attack–without just cause–on a nation not linked to the tragedy of 9/11.

In his book “No More Vietnams,” former President Richard Nixon emphasized that America could not and should not go to war without the support of its people and its Congress. As if Osama bin Laden never existed, today we have a president so obsessed with a grudge that we are about to tell the world that an unjust offense is our definition of defense by attacking another country without incitement or any evidence of an imminent threat.

Most Middle East experts agree that a likely outcome of an invasion of Iraq is an Iraqi attack on Israel that will trigger a nuclear conflagration. A certain outcome is the loss of innocent civilian lives. All this to unseat one man? Discussing an invasion so thoroughly, so publicly, is a dangerous provocation in itself and displays a disturbing lack of conscience on the part of our president. It’s no wonder the rest of the world thinks we have a screw loose in the department of priorities.

We cannot afford to be a nation without a conscience. Americans of all ages lack medicine and treatment, schools are shutting down, big businesses are robbing employees, small businesses and transportation systems are going under, the surplus is gone, and our environment is severely threatened. At a time when a visionary leader would show compassion and attempt to initiate an era of global peace and justice for a truly secure future, our leader speaks in terms of hundreds of thousands of people as expendable for his own political ends.

This nation has a unique potential, and with it the highest obligation to serve a compassionate vision to the world. We have not earned a right to dominate; we’ve acquired the ability, and thereby the opportunity, to create a crowning legacy by uniting civilization in a quest for a prosperous and permanent peace in this unforgiving century. We must earn the respect of the world by exercising our finest principles. Anything less is self-destructive, for if we fail to promote a sensible and inclusive approach to the future, we will selfishly squander a tremendous wealth and potential that humankind may never again possess, and in so doing, forever tarnish the magnificence of America.

The task has fallen to us, a nation of good people, yet it is evident that the lessons of the 20th century have been overlooked, even hijacked by our leaders for the purposes of further greed and bloodshed. Rather than seek disarmament of the entire Middle East region and beyond, our country strongly promotes the perpetual pollution and weaponization of the world. Leaders are consciously choosing the methods of Hitler over those of Gandhi, and nothing could be more dangerous to all of humankind.

Truly, then, grassroots American activism in pursuit of a peaceful global community is the noblest kind of patriotism, and represents nothing less than the conscience of a civilization striving to evolve beyond the hopeless path of violence. A patriotism that embraces all nations displays the healthiest political wisdom to the world, but unless we demand such wisdom in leadership, America will neither succeed economically nor find security in the long term.

For the good of our society, Americans have determined that diversity must be honored and cherished at the community level. Surely we also recognize that the same dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness must be applied globally to successfully navigate the future of a multicultural world. If we learn anything from 9/11, let it be the importance of acting wisely–and with foresight–in our responses to the challenge of great tragedy.

Today’s Americans did not inherit a finished product. We inherited a work in progress, founded by activists and built by a multicultural populace. Consider me not, therefore, anti-American, but as one who is following George Washington’s “spark of celestial fire” on an intellectual quest for freedom that began with the birth of our nation.

Some may say speaking out is unpatriotic, but according to our forefathers, quite the opposite is true: it is incumbent upon citizens to speak out and act wisely. Because of America’s blatantly careless and belligerent attitude, September 11th has brought me back to graduate school at the age of 46. I’ll be focusing on Peace Studies. And I’ll save a seat for President Bush.

When towers fall, open your hearts to make the world safe for towers to rise proud and tall.

A lifelong peace activist, Brian Bogart marched with Dr. King in San Francisco at the age of eight and worked with Dr. Carl Sagan on the US/USSR Space Bridge project in 1986. A member of the Eugene Middle East Peace Group in Eugene, Oregon, he will be studying for a Master’s degree at the University of Oregon this fall.

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