A lot of us will cry today. Television footage will be playing on a reel, memorials will be held across the country, and a lot will be written about the anniversary of 9/11.
All I want to say is that we are very very lucky to be Americans. Is our democracy a work in progress? Absolutely. Are there ways in which the United States could and should improve? Of course. Are there chapters in our nation’s history that cause us to cringe and cry? I don’t think anyone would deny that.
But in spite of the ways in which our nation falls short, I want to say today that being born in America is effectively being given a winning lottery ticket every single day. Never in the history of the world has a population of people, as a whole, been given such an embarrassing abundance of liberty, safety, and opportunity. People from all over the globe risk their lives on a daily basis in order to have even the chance of being able to come into our country. I don’t even think we realize how good we have it.
My brother, a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, loves to take roadtrips. Loves driving. He chooses, every year, to make the three-day drive from Texas to New York, rather than taking the much easier flight. Do you want to know why? Because he loves how safe American roads are. He promised himself, while stationed in Iraq in 2007-2008 where his daily highway patrols constituted a very real threat to his life, that if he had the chance to return to the U.S., he would never think about driving the same way again. That he would never stop giving thanks for the fact that, in America, you can drive on a highway and not worry about running over a bomb. That you can stop at any rest stop–whether it’s on a beautiful stretch of flat Oklahoma prairie or on a green hill in Pennsylvania–and get out of your car without fearing for your life.
Today of all days, let’s focus on the ways in which our country is great. Let’s be grateful for what we have – because you know that the heroes who gave their lives on this day twelve years ago sure knew what a special thing we had. Let’s not talk about some dim-wit who “twerked” at an awards show. The people who have served and continue to serve our country deserve better than that. Let’s find ways to make our great country even better, and to be worthy of this fantastic gift we have been given by being born as Americans. Let’s find ways to volunteer in our local communities. Let’s opt to read the news article about a current event rather than about a Kardashian. Let’s be citizens who take an interest in a local political election. Let’s donate to a food bank or send a care package to someone we know who is serving overseas. Let’s engage our friends on important topics coming out of Washington D.C., Syria, or our own hometown.
This is a very very sad day, yes. But perhaps we can also take our sadness and try to bring about some good.