Rise Above

Jose Vilson Jose

This morning, I remember thinking that telling my 9/11 story would engage people in my perspective of what this day means and what it might mean for people of my “like” mind. Other people seem to have the same ideas, woke up much earlier than I did, and got their stories out early and often. The streams of people sharing where they were on 9/11 came rushing through my screen like a tidal wave of tears streaming from the faces of those mourning for their loved ones lost that fateful day. This set of cliches made my throat clench, my fingers clutch, and my eyes squint. This mix of heightened patriotism and self-aggrandizing only made me push my laptop closed. While I wanted to entertain others’ thoughts on the day, I couldn’t help but see certain peoples’ faces run swiftly through the back of my eyelids: George W. Bush’s listlessness, Dick Cheney’s aggressive sneer, Donald Rumsfeld’s egotastical smile, and terror and weariness of hundreds and thousands of armed forces, local safety agents, and citizens. Where once faces and souls held comfort that the United States would always protects its own, we saw the facade exposed for all of us to see, like going to dinner with a few people you thought were friends until you’re left with a receipt you can’t possibly pay back. Times hundred.

For a time, the best of us rose against, and we came together irrespective of our differences. Like prisoners of our own fortunes, however, the grace period came to a rapid end. This country let its citizens descend into Islamophobia, equating Muslims of all types with terrorists, and re-drawing the color lines so they weren’t so Black and White anymore. This country descended into a more extreme xenophobia, a strange disease emblematic of a nation that forgot its open-door policy for the first part of the previous century. The families of undocumented workers who lost their lives in those towers had their rights to proper mourning denied, and people of color soon saw the elevated police presence in their neighborhoods as a sign that the United States would rescind any semblance of human rights displayed after that fateful day. Major politicians slowly distanced themselves from the families of the lives lost, and corporations continued their upper-echelon-friendly policies to cut jobs unnecessarily.

Even Jay-Z, who donated thousands of dollars for 9/11 relief, felt this parallel in a song hidden deep into Blueprint 2 entitled “A Ballad for The Fallen Soldier” where he compares the streets of Brooklyn to the war-ridden paths in the Middle East:

Off to boot camp, the worlds facing terror
Bin Laden been happenin in Manhattan
Crack was anthrax back then, back when
Police was Al’Qaeda to black men
While I was out there hustling sinning with no religion
He was off the wall killing for a living

As these un-natural disasters kept happening, it became clear to me that none of this could ever bring all those innocent lives back from the dead. Yes, I believe administrations who steer us in a wayward direction should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No, I don’t have any inclinations towards the people who serve this country insofar as actually killing others in war games, either. If there is such a thing as a good war to have, I don’t think any of the ones we’re in belong in that. It’s hard to justify the killing of hundreds of thousands of people along with the thousands the United States has already sent over.

It’s harder to see this as a moment to just think of the acts of bravery in these times, either. Songs, daughters, mothers, fathers, and perfect strangers tried to save people’s lives in spite of the almost impossible odds. For a day or two, we remembered our humanity. We let go of our pretenses and just cared enough to see each other live. While it’s easy to let my radical views on the events of 9/11 cloud this perspective, the more radical act is to love. Thousands of people died and continue to die because of this ugly and tragic event, and we’re asked to rise above this in our lives and our hearts. We can try for ages on end to understand this heinous act in the context of corrupt peoples’ minds, but the only way to win is to develop compassion, understanding, and care for fellow human beings.

Love is the only building still in need of rebuilding.

Mr. Vilson, who hopes people read to the end …