September 11th, 2001. December 7th, 1941. Nearly 60 years separate those two dates–the dates for the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attacks on New York and Washington. September 9th, 1796. 221 years have passed since George Washington penned his farewell address that warned us Americans of the perils of hyper-partisanship, excessive debt, unnecessary wars, and entangling alliances. Amongst these three significant dates, what have we learned as a nation?
Today marks 16 years since the attacks on New York and Washington (plus the failed attempt that resulted in the downing of Flight 93)–this generation’s Pearl Harbor. Just a few weeks ago, all I could see in the news was a nation divided by race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual preference. Our national debt is still soaring near 20 trillion dollars. We are locked into perpetual war with terrorists or something in the Middle East.
It appears we have learned nothing from perhaps our greatest President and the two most devastating attacks against our people. Generally speaking–and I hate to generalize, oversimplify, and sensationalize–we are a nation divided that did not come together as well after September 11, 2001 as we did after December 7, 1941. Maybe the Greatest Generation over-glamorized the events after Pearl Harbor. Maybe things were not perfect on all fronts as the nation coalesced and focused our anger towards Japan, Germany, and Italy, but from what I can tell, America came together better then than it did after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. From what I can tell we cannot unite to confront and defeat a common enemy of terrorism without letting our internal divisions get in the way. I have a theory that some of the internal divisions are really being influenced on the outside, but we as Americans are too ignorant or stupid to realize it. Again, what have we learned? Moreover, how have we lost our ability to come together? How can we get better as a nation?
“Through blurred eyes we find the strength and courage to soar beyond the moment. We look forward to the future knowing we can never forget the past.” Maybe. Right now, the only blurred tears we have are the tears of anger towards our President or fellow American citizens. Until we unite against the real enemy, we will never soar beyond the moment. I would argue that we can never forget the past, because many of us are too busy erasing inconvenient portions of our past that should be teaching us how to move forward.
Again I ask, “What have we learned?” Sadly, the answer to that question may be, “Nothing. Not in 221 years.”