The Four R’s of a Post 9/11 Education: Wajahat Ali


Smithsonian exhibition of relics from the 9/11 terror attacks

A door from a firetruck crushed by the collapse of the World Trade Centre displayed at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

I have four Rs to offer for this anniversary of 9/11.

Remembrance. On that day, the two towers fell, but a nation of millions rose up as one. A decade later, the tragedy continues to reverberate around the world. There is forever a pre and post 9-11. There is no going back. The world still lives in the shadows of fallen towers. Some of us are still afraid of the bogeyman, both real and imagined, that lurk behind and in between them. We remember it as a day when 19 criminals hijacked a religion, and 3,000 innocent lives perished for the unfortunate realisation of their perverse, criminal ideology.

Sadly, their death continues to be exploited by some for the sake of profit: whether for an ever-expanding military-industrial complex that has mired the world in two expensive and myopic wars, an intrusive national security apparatus that at times makes us “feel safe” at the expense of “being free”, or the promotion of extremist ideological agendas dividing Americans along religious and political lines.

Reconciliation with our neighbours and citizens of different faith traditions and ethnicities who all share the same spiritual and cultural DNA of being “American,” or at very least “fellow human”. For those unfairly scapegoated and smeared simply due to wearing a turban, or beard, or having the wrong skin colour, an unfriendly passport, a multi-hyphenated last name, and for those unfortunates ones “at the wrong place at the wrong time”, and the other footnotes in history barely remembered as the cannon fodder and collateral damage of errant missiles and improvised explosive devices, we hope you forgive us, as we try to move forward – together, again.

Resilience for a nation attempting to break free from the looming shadow of a tragedy that, at times, made her succumb to her worst fears, hysteria and paranoia. Despite losing her moral compass, from time to time, in dealing justly with its neighbours both at home and abroad, the one nation of many communities is remarkably resilient, often learning – albeit grudgingly – from her costly mistakes, and still surviving in a volatile and uncertain economic and political climate.

Resolve, and hope that the United States – the multicultural laboratory of the world, the freakshow experiment running 235 years strong, the 21st century’s cultural bouillabaisse, this unfinished rough draft, this perpetual work in progress, this fluke founded upon religious freedoms, tolerance, fairness, inclusivity and equal justice under the law – this nation resolves to implement in practice and reality the still unrealised, yet limitless, potential of its values.

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