“People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek…”
-Black Eyed Peas “Where is the Love?” (2003)
My most vivid memories of 9/11 were of the phone calls in the tragic last moments of people’s lives. Their final acts were all directed in desperation to communicate the love they felt for their partners, their children and their families. The love they felt was all they had to say. “Please always remember how much I love you.” This was the phrase that filled the airwaves out of the planes and in the towers before they fell. There were no calls for revenge among the victims, their trauma and fear of their impending death dissolved into love; it was the only message that the victims wanted to leave behind.
Even as these phone calls were played and replayed on the news for days afterward, the messages of love were quickly overshadowed by the fear and trauma that all of us survivors were left with. Like much of the rest of the world, our safety was not absolute as we had always taken for granted. We could be hurt by terror like most other countries by people who were filled with hatred. In the days following 9/11, our course was set on revenge and our national priority became security.
No one could foresee the shocking costs that this direction would exact from us. The sticker shock of our revenge wars, has just about bankrupted us. Although the National Priorities Project puts the cost at upwards of $1.23 trillion, the actual indirect costs, including long-term veterans’ benefits is at least $6 trillion. We have drained our treasury, our future and our children’s future in the name of security. Every community in the nation is currently struggling to fund and staff their local schools and community emergency services. Are we actually more secure while funding military operations around the world when we cannot create enough work to maintain our infrastructure at home?
We sacrificed not only our financial security for this direction, but also much of what we treasure most- our personal freedoms. Benjamin Franklin aptly predicted this situation when he said, “Those who give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” The Patriot Act following 9/11 was the beginning of our willingness to relinquish our precious civil liberties and accept racial profiling as a way of life. Freedom is not free and you don’t buy it with wars. The real cost of freedom is exacted from the courage it requires to live with the insecurity that is inherent in a free world.
The only antidote to fear and hatred is love. It is at the height of our humanity and the only genius the human race can rely on to live together in a free world. Imagine for a moment if we had invested those trillions of dollars in waging a campaign of love and peace. Both Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi stand as beacons of light today after employing military strategies, tactics and discipline to a peaceful movement intended to creating a just world. What they had on their side was the truth. The soldiers of this war were willing to give up their lives in the name of this truth: that we all have a right to live free, happy and equally. Ten years later, what I hear calling out from the shadow of loss and destruction is in memory of all those who died and asked to be remembered for their love.
It is time to make another choice and the only sane response is love.