United we Stand
by Melissa V.
The events on Tuesday, September 11 left this nation reeling in shock.
Never before has such an atrocity been committed on such a scale.
We were all stunned and horrified, and we all have to come to terms with it.
This attack, like all such attacks, was designed to have a "chilling effect." To disrupt the lives of all those in the attacked group (in this case, Americans) and to make them feel unsafe, vulnerable, at risk. To make us want to go into hiding.
It has done so. Many of the people I know have not had the heart to continue with planned celebrations, to go out to a movie or to shop; even to keep on with our daily work.
In addition, it has had another effect, as all such attacks do. It has caused us to draw in towards each other, to label ourselves so we can easily see who is on our side, and to view those without such labels with suspicion and distrust. I have never seen so many American flags flying, all over the world, as people identify themselves as Americans and American sympathizers.
This is human nature. This is what we do. When attacked because of who we are, we feel vulnerable and fearful. To fight those feelings, we band together with other members of our group, identify ourselves, and prepare to fight back.
We have always done this.
For the majority of Americans; those who are white, Christian, and heterosexual, this is a new feeling. It has never occurred to them that someone could possibly hate them so much, simply because of who they are, that they would want to destroy them.
For those in the minority, however, those who are not white, not Christian, and not heterosexual, this is nothing new at all. We have been living this way for decades.
The tragedy in New York and DC happened in a matter of hours. In less than a day, thousands of people were killed and injured, and millions of dollars of property were destroyed.
The tragedy for minority Americans has taken place over many years, but it is not a smaller number of lives.
Between 1995 and 1999, according to the FBI, 23,604 people were attacked for not being white, 7,596 people were attacked for not being Christian, and 6,971 people were attacked for not being heterosexual.
Did you understand that? 38,171 people in the last 5 years alone. And this has been going on for much, much longer than 5 years.
Better than half of these attacks are intimidation, or attacks on property; but the chilling effect remains. It is also important to note that a relatively few, but still large, number of people were attacked for being white, Catholic, Protestant, or heterosexual. Fear and rage leads to fear and rage, as we are seeing now.
Have you ever wondered why Black Power? Why Gay Pride Parades? Why people from minority religions put those bumper stickers on our cars?
This is why. Perhaps, now, you can understand.
As humans, attacked for being who we are, we are banding together, identifying ourselves, and preparing to fight back.
Why did the Terrorists do this awful thing? Because they are fanatics. They see a group of people as being of the devil, bound for hell, intrinsically evil. Evil must be eliminated, so the target group must be eliminated.
Why do people who attack non-Whites, non-Christians, non-Heterosexuals do it? For exactly the same reasons.
Fanaticism, the concept that people who do not agree with you are evil, has no place in this world or this century. Look what it leads to.
We must all strive to stamp it out; and we must, each one of us, start with ourselves.
We must learn that people are not evil simply because they are different, or they disagree with us.
The only evil here is fanaticism itself.
We must learn to get along with each other, and to agree to disagree.
There is room for all of our religions, all our races, all our sexes, all our abilities or disabilities. There is room for each one of us to live our lives in the manner we think best, as long as that manner does not harm others, and to teach our children those same values.
But there is not room to force others to live our way. Not through legislation, not through intimidation, not through violence.
There is not room for fanaticism.
Please, let us learn from the horrifying example given us, and let us stop the terror now.
Let us, by all means, find the persons or groups responsible for this crime, and bring them all to justice.
But let us not fall into the same trap ourselves. Let us not decide in our anger and grief that anyone who is Muslim, anyone who is of Arabian descent, anyone who is different than we are is somehow at fault; and that person must be punished.
Let us not become terrorists in our turn.
Instead, let this be a wake-up call that allows the millions who have never been the target of unreasoning hatred to finally understand and empathize with those who have.
And let us end it.
Then, and only then, will the thousands who are dead not have died in vain.