Trauma usually affects human beings in two ways. We pull back from others, or we draw closer. The tragedy of 9-11 evoked both responses in our nation. Some Americans saw the terrorist attack as a revelation that our fate is now intertwined with other nations. This group saw the tragedy as a call to communicate better with the rest of humankind, to strengthen international law and to intertwine our economic destinies so that an attack on one nation is an attack on us all. The other, more popular, response has been to pull back from other cultures, to build thicker walls and stronger boundaries, and to flatter ourselves with patriotic songs and symbols. It is true that first method will risk our very survival as a nation, but it is also true that the second response will mean a slower, duller but more certain death.
It is a rare person who can organize a worldview without enemies. Our species, for all its intelligence and power is still quite small and helpless in the grand scheme of things. I think the great figures of history are the ones who call us to love all humankind, but I also think it is much easier to scare people than enlighten them. So, all of our religions and all of our nations suffer from voices calling us to lash out at the shadows cast by own fear and ignorance. We blame the weakest and most vulnerable for our problems and revel in our power to do violence. We display our armies and weapons as though they were enough to make our nation great or our lives worth living. In the long run, life isn’t worth living if we cannot love or trust humankind. In the long run, people grow weary of being afraid and vicious. In the long run, people find the courage to be gentle. That is my prayer for America.
(From an interview done with Joshunda Sanders, for the Austin American Statesman)