What's On Our Mind ...
Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people. The memories of that day still fill us up with horror, disbelief, and sadness.
An ever-growing number of Americans have no personal memory of that day. They were either too young or not yet born. However, they are living in a world defined by that tragic moment, from how they travel through airports to the war in Afghanistan.
The moment the Twin Towers collapsed, our political differences did as well. The country — and Congress — came together. We were all grief-stricken Americans, one family. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. Shortly thereafter, the cultural, ideological, and political schisms re-emerged.
Muslim Americans experienced a significant rise in violence and discrimination - blamed for the attacks and viewed with suspicion because of their religion. In 2000, there were just 28 recorded hate crimes against Muslim Americans. The following year crimes shot up to 481 cases. Islamophobia has continued to rise, fueled by the anti-immigrant Donald Trump, whose first act in office was to attempt to implement a "Muslim ban.”
In 2000, our common enemy was Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. Today it’s COVID-19. In both cases our first reaction as a country was “we're all in this together,” a national spirit focused on how to halt a disease that claimed more lives than those who perished on 9/11. But that, too, fell victim to political animus and hostility, causing an exponential rise in antisemitism and hate crimes.
Crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders increased dramatically during the pandemic, spurred on by vile political speech and slurs. Online conspiracy theories have blamed the Jews for spreading the virus to gain global control and have ultimately led to a breakdown of communal dialogue over something as simple as mask-wearing or getting a vaccine to protect our friends and families.
Our history has proven that in dark, tragic moments, Washington can stand together. But our nation needs to sustain that camaraderie and cooperation beyond a single moment; it should be the norm. We must work to be the best of ourselves for the sake of our democracy, to honor the memory of all the 9/11 victims, and for our children’s future. On this anniversary and on the days that follow, it must always be country over politics.