When the World Trade Center in New York City was reduced to rubble by terrorists on Tuesday, September 11, it hit me especially hard, because I lived in New York for 30 years and it will always be my hometown. I wasn't fond of the Twin Towers--I remember watching them being built and thinking how hideous they were.
But the Trade Center was a symbol, the same way the Alamo in San Antonio, where I now live, is a symbol. The Alamo was once reduced to rubble, prompting the cry "Remember the Alamo!," which inspired Texans to fight the Mexicans again and win.
Since it has twice been a target for terrorist acts, the World Trade Center is clearly a symbol of American power for certain terrorist groups. There?s an irony in this, because anyone who's ever lived in New York knows that the twin towers were home to the one of the greatest concentrations of regular, middle-class workers in the city, many of whom were minorities or first generation immigrants. They were secretaries, clerks and mail room employees--not just the razzle-dazzle corporate types we think of when we visualize the working world of New York.
But terrorists have never cared much about getting their facts straight. They're only interested in demonizing a particular race or group of people in order to glorify their own values. But what kind of value system could degrade whole populations and find them worthless--Americans, Jews, Blacks, Albanians, women--are these human lives worth less than others?
Every night, if you search hard enough, you'll find at least one cable documentary on Hitler and the holocaust. It's become a joke at our house: "I'm finished watching my show," I say, tossing the remote to my husband, "Now you can watch your Nazis." But I know why he does it--he's trying to understand why this happened, and he hasn't yet found an answer.
Now Americans have joined the scapegoats of the world. We have become the Enemy that certain terrorists would like to get rid of so that their ideals can triumph. We're perceived as arrogant and rich, dismissive of the third world, and in some ways this is true. Yet those who practice terrorism are much worse, because they are arrogant to the extent that they see their beliefs as the only ones worth preserving and view everyone who is not part of their group as expendable. America is better than that because we have never looked at the rest of the world in that way.
Zealots of all kinds have always separated the world into Us and Them. They justify doing evil by cloaking it in the name of righteousness. We must never allow ourselves to fall into that trap, even in small ways. Whenever anyone starts talking about "Them," even in a conversation over a cup of coffee, we must speak up, no matter who "Them" happens to be.
Because this time it was Us.
NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.