Lessons (Re) Learned from September 11, 2001

Another September 11th. Another day of “where were you on 9/11” stories. I am tired of those stories. Rather than tell you where I was on that fateful day, I would rather talk about where America has been and where it is going–from the point of view of a lowly aerospace cubicle engineer. CAUTION: this post is merely a rant from the point of view of one person. If you do not like these views, stop reading and go get your own blog.

  • “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” Albert Einstein. America has been humbled by the events of that one fateful day ten years ago. We have been self-centered after generations of “me, me, me” and blaming others for our own problems. In one day, we were reminded of what we have become after setting up ourselves, as a government and as a society, to only acknowledge the truth as it pertains to me, me, me. Well, the gods (whomever you choose to be your gods) laughed upon us heartily. Just because we live somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, it does not mean that we should insulate ourselves from the problems that plague the rest of the world. News flash–the rest of the world looks at the same world with a different point of view. To make matters worse, the situation is never as simple as it looks when presented. The United States helped fund and equip the mujahadeen fight the Russians in the 1980s, which indirectly helped Osama Bin Laden with his cause. As a nation, we ignored the threat from Bin Laden in the 1990s. As a culture, we really did not care about people like Bin Laden since they were too far away to affect our lives. Until that one day.
  • “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi. America is slow to adapt to today’s and tomorrow’s battles, because we spend too much time remembering facts in history without studying causality. We spend so much time remembering where we were ten years ago that we neglect to think about where we are today and where we are going tomorrow. People can tell you the body count (2,823 at the World Trade Center, 125 at the Pentagon, 92 on American flight 11, 64 on United flight 175, 64 on American flight 77, and 45 on United flight 93), but they cannot tell us why these easily Google-able facts are important and why each one of us should make a small change in our own lives to adapt to a world that has changed. “Learn from history, or be doomed to repeat it”. Those 3,000+ people did not have to die in vain, if only each American would take the lessons to heart and become the change we want to see in the world around us.
  • “Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.” George Washington. I grew up hating Russian commie-pinko-bastards that Rambo, Chuck Norris, and a band of teenagers in Colorado (Red Dawn) easily defeated with American flag-waving bravado, some funny one-liners, and kick-ass machine guns. By the time I joined the Air Force in 1995, the Commies were already out of the picture, but at that time Osama Bin Laden was already at work filling the void left by the Commies.The military I am in now is not much different from the one I joined in 1995. Even that powerful wave of patriotism seems to have waned as we paid more and more for it, in terms of dollars and human lives. We have fancy technology that took 20 years to develop at millions and billions of dollars, but instead of fighting another billion-dollar army we are fighting idealists dressed as civilians. As an engineer, my goal is to design systems that can meet the threat against standing armies and idealist wackos alike. As a parent, I plan on teaching my kids all that is great about Western civilization and America, so they can continue to make it great…while still respecting the views of others. America is the greatest country on earth, but it can be so with some humility towards others and understanding of the world around it.
  • “The great vice of democracy is certainly not tyranny and cruelty: there have been mountain-dwelling republicans, savage, ferocious; but it is not the republican spirit that made them so, it is nature.” François-Marie ArouetIn ten years we have exhausted $1.2 trillion dollars on the war alone–the same amount that United States stock dropped that week. We have ousted the tyrants Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, but we are still sending our military overseas. We have always fought wars by putting a face to the enemy and assigning a flag to our opponent, but this war has no face and has no opposing country. What has this trillion-dollar investment gained us? Have we taught “the free people” of Iraq and Afghanistan the dual edged sword that is called democracy? We do not teach our kids anything other than hatred of Islam and any “rag head” terrorist, and that “democracy” is the greatest tenet of the Western world. We are at war against idealists, but not we ourselves do not understand Western ideals that others are at war against. The Al Qaeda training manual spells it out nicely. Go Google for that to see what we are up against.
In summary: America is the greatest nation on earth. It is not perfect, but it is home. We take it for granted, and we often forget our place in the vast universe around us. Honor the lives of those who perished on September 11, 2001 not by recounting that day, but by moving forward and changing the world for the better…one moment at a time, one person at a time.
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