I would be amiss if I didn’t pen some thoughts this September 11th. Ten years ago today, cowards attacked this great nation. So many innocent people needlessly lost their lives. Countless others endured physical and/or psychological trauma of which some still suffer from today. That dreadful day ten years ago is a tragic afterthought for the majority of us in this country. For those that experienced and survived the attack however, it is anything but an afterthought.
As we honor those that lost their lives, it’s difficult not to reflect upon these past ten years. I’d like to believe we are better off now than we were then. In some respects we are. Unlike so many other places throughout the world, we have not endured another large scale terrorist attack within our borders. We’ve been free to continue our way of life with relatively little interference. We come and go as we please for the most part. Arguably we’re safer now from external threats than ever before.
Yet in many respects, we’ve lost ground over the past ten years. Some state that Americans have sacrificed little these past ten years. I beg to differ. Civil liberties have been eroded. Our domestic economy struggles due in part to two wars spawned by the attack. Let us not forget those veterans (and their families) that lost their lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all points in between. A whole generation of war fighters with physical and mental ailments struggle to integrate back into society. Society struggles to accept them. Americans have sacrificed much these past ten years.
Ugly truths have reared their heads. Truths that even the most politically correct are hard pressed to ignore. The religious fundamentalism that has fueled ten years of discontent highlights yet again how religion can be utilized as an effective mechanism for hate. This is nothing new. This has been the case throughout most of human history. It’s the dirty little secret religious zealots pretend doesn’t exist. It does. Religion-fueled hate can only be overcome when we rise above our religious pretentions.
The past ten years have also shown just how backwards the majority of the Middle East truly is. Corruption is the norm, not the exception. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed to the world to just how debilitating this corruption really is. Nothing gets done without bribing somebody. Very little is left for those that need it most once the bribing is done. So many billions of dollars have been dumped into this giant suck hole of a region. Few have become very rich, all at the expense of those they govern. It doesn’t matter how many millions and billions are dumped into the Middle East. Nothing will change until the corruption, fueled by religious and cultural pretentions, is overcome.
It may seem as if those that lost their lives in the attacks ten years ago today lost their lives in vain. This is not the case. They are an inspiration and motivation for those that work diligently to overcome ten years of chaos and instability. Those that needlessly lost their lives ten years ago today to cowards, as well as those that suffered and still suffer today, will never be forgotten.
Tonight, I will sleep free due to the ultimate sacrifices of others.
Nameless others, men and women I will never know. To all the men and women who have died to
preserve this nation’s freedom. To all those families whose loved ones gave their all.
Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for ensuring my freedom.
This past Sunday, I read an article about Charles Whittington, an Iraqi war veteran that has been barred from the Community College of Baltimore County over a recently written paper. In his paper, Charles Whittington wrote that killing “is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself.” (The Baltimore Sun, 2010) Despite receiving an “A” on the paper, “high ranking” college officials barred Whittington from the campus until he undergoes a psychological evaluation.
Despite not making any direct threats, officials banned Whittington because they believe it is better to “be cautious in this post-Virginia Tech world.” (The Baltimore Sun, 2010) This decision was made even though there was/is no similarity in behavior between Whittington and the Virginia Tech gunman. Therefore, the decision to bar Whittington was made not on fact but mere speculation by those that are unable, or unwilling, to understand the plight of today’s newest generation of war-fighting veterans.
Many will argue that freedom of speech violation is the real issue in this situation. However, I believe a much deeper issue is at stake. This situation highlights just how unprepared American society is in dealing with the “untidy” aspects of war. War is hell, both physically and mentally, and for the first time in a long time we as a society find ourselves dealing with a generation of veterans that suffer from ailments of both. We expect our veterans to reintegrate seamlessly into society when they return from their deployments. Yet, when they are unable to do so, we shun them out of fear and misunderstanding. This duality in expectation is unacceptable. Barring Whittington emphasizes just how uncomfortable and unprepared American society is in dealing with those that do not live up to that expectation of seamless integration.
While the decision to bar Whittington is disappointing, I came something even more disappointing, if not downright despicable. At the end of the article, Mike Brittingham, a Marine veteran that also attends the Community College of Baltimore County, expressed his concerns regarding Whittington’s paper. Brittingham was worried that Whittington’s paper “would portray all of them [veterans] in a negative light” and contacted the college’s safety officers and president to voice his concerns. While Brittingham believes the school acted correctly in barring Whittington from the campus, Brittingham actions were glaringly incorrect. Brittingham was so concerned about protecting his precious image that he missed an opportunity to reach out to a fellow veteran in need. It is Brittingham’s selfishness, overreaction, and unwillingness to help a fellow veteran that makes this situation that much more despicable.
The Baltimore Sun. (2010, November 28). Campus Bars Vet Over Essay on Combat’s Allure. Omaha World-Herald, p. 7A.