Lessons of 9/11

In the therapy world, one of the questions we ask is, “What have we learned from this?”.  With 9/11 being talked about so much, I thought I’d apply the question to the subject and see what happens.

Since the other thing I tell people in therapy is that they are only responsible for their own behavior,  nothing here should be construed as saying that we caused 9/11.  The people who flew into the towers, pentagon, etc. are totally responsible for their actions. It doesn’t matter how bad we as a nation were, the people in those towers, and the people on those planes did not deserve this.

1) Supporting or installing despots is not a good idea.  The first time I ever heard a Muslim refer to the U.S. as “the great Satan” was when the Iranians took hostages after they toppled the Shah. It may have seemed like a great policy move to install the Shah to somebody, but he tortured his people and we supported him.  Bad morals do not make good policy. In the end, people matter more than economics, because economics come from people.

2) Listen to each other. Remember when we discovered that someone in the FBI knew that the terrorists were training as pilots in the US?  Instead of “make the most arrests and look good”, law enforcement should be all on the same page. Catch the bad guys. If somebody says, “I think there’s a problem over here”, they should be listened to.

3) Airport security needs to do its job. There were major problems with security in Boston, especially. If they had done their job, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

4) Make every day count. When you leave in the morning, make sure you’re on good terms with people. This may be the last time you see them.

5) Know your geography and your politics. Remember when George Bush kept linking Al-Qaeda (a non-government group from Afghanistan) to Saddam Hussein (the government of Iraq)? We spent a lot of time punishing the terrorists in the wrong country. It cost American lives on so many levels.

6) Take the hit and be the bigger country. If we had grieved as a country, and not retaliated in the general direction of the Middle East, we wouldn’t be broke now, economically.  The war cost a lot. Furthermore, we wouldn’t be broken spiritually.  The disruption of the lives of families by the war emotionally can not be under-estimated. We could have proved that we were not afraid of the terrorists by absorbing the pain and transcending it.   Then we could have targeted the actual terrorists when we were in our right minds.

7) Never trust a person with a 1000 page document they just happened to have laying around. The Patriot Act is one of the biggest mistakes we ever made as a country because it undermined every freedom we claimed to be about. We’re still trying to dig our way out of it.  This is not to say that parts of it may not have been necessary. There probably were. But to sign the document as a whole without real thought and without questioning where it came from because we’re having an emergency  is never a good idea.

8) Remember who the real heroes are in life. Remember that day, when we realized that those police and firemen were going into that building because that was what they do? Remember how heroic they were? Even Hollywood “stars” realized that day that they didn’t qualify as real heroes for a brief minute or two.  Since then, instead of supporting real heroes, we give our attention to people who are less worthy of our time. The “real housewives of New Jersey?” “The Bachelor”?  Come on.  Heroes and heroines are people that do heroic things. There are plenty of incredible people out there. Wouldn’t it be nice if spent more energy on them?

9/11, like every event in our lives, great or small, is a chance to make the world better instead of worse. It is our reactions and our actions that make the difference. I hope that we will take it  — and every other event — as chance to learn what we want to be and what we don’t. We’re never going to get it totally right — we’re human, after all. But we ought to have it as a goal.




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