Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Hands That Built America

15 years ago, the skyline of New York City was changed. And with it changed the perspective of America.  

Before two planes struck down the twin towers of the World Trade Center, before another plane plunged into the Pentagon in Washington DC and a fourth plane crashed to the ground in Pennsylvania, we lived in a bubble of innocence and security, that we were far enough away from the terrors of the world and strong enough to keep them from ever coming here. It was, we were quite distressed to learn, a fragile bubble, easily obliterated. 

For more on my observations on that terrible Tuesday morning, click here

Just under 2 years ago, the skyline of New York City welcomed a new addition, the official opening of One World Trade Center, colloquially referred to as the Freedom Tower. But did this change to the skyline change our perspective?  

In the days after the towers fell, we as Americans came together. Yes, we were shocked, fearful but we were strong, determined. We stood together. 

In the years since, we put a up new tower, shiny and bold in the golden sunlight against a hopeful blue sky in defiance of those who thought to hurt us. A monument to the strength of a UNITED States of America. 

But we don't stand together. 

Instead we stand a part, boundaries of race, religion, sexual orientation, politics laid down deep in the cold hard ground and rooted in unforgiving rock. 

In the hours after 9/11, as hurt and frightened as we were, we knew without a doubt that we were greater than those who would bring us down, we were stronger than those who thought to defeat us. Now there are so-called "leaders" who will tell us that our country isn't great, isn't strong and will eagerly point to "others" whose fault all that is. Politicians and pundits scream at us that we are weak, our leaders are weak and only certain people can save us. 

If we are weak, it's because we are divided and where we are divided, we have only done this to ourselves. 

It doesn't take much to destroy. Cowards and demagogues will always find a way to knock something down. 

It takes greatness of strength and spirit to build something up. 

In 2002, Martin Scorsese released a film called The Gangs of New York. Set in the mid 19th century, New York is a city of amazing growth and opportunities but its also awash in blood and violence, products of political corruption and gang warfare. From the soundtrack of that film was a song by U2 called The Hands That Built America.  It's a song I listened to quite a lot and with the memories of September 11th still fresh in my mind, it was a song that resonated with me.  We can build things, we can do great things. But we will struggle to do so. There will be obstacles to be overcome and the journey will not be easy. Even if we win, we may lose again. And if we lose again, we'll get back up and fight to win again. 

Yes, these are hands that can grasp guns and knives to hurt our fellow man. These are hands that can clutch greedily for power and wealth. But Americans have been and can continue to be better than that.

These are hands that reach out to our neighbors. These are hands that can shape our country and our world into a better place for each other. Faced with those cowards who would tear down our buildings and our ideals, we stood up and put our hands to work building.

These are the hands that built America.  

Thank you and remember to be good to one another. 

Counting Down To Infinity