One of the ways that our culture took over the message of 9/11 was to use it as a call for "the same kind of unity that we had on 9/12." That's the kind of unity, they said, that we need in order to combat this pandemic, to finally kick Covid to the curb, and to get back to life as we know it - not life as we knew it, since that is gone forever.
We need the kind of unity that stops seeing differences. That stops seeing age, race, sexual identity, opinion. We need the kind of unity that joins arms and walks away from the dust and ashes with a resolve to defeat our common enemy.
The problem is that this is the same culture that has been using its rhetoric for far too long to divide us. Even just a few days (two?) before the remembrance of 9/11, our president - backed by millions of those who voted for him and love his policies - came out and said he was sick and tired of the percentage of Americans who are holding the rest of the country back, those who won't do what they ought to be doing (by getting a vaccine), those who are only thinking about themselves and are helping Covid defeat us. There have been calls by many who think along the same lines that persons who "refuse" to get the vaccine (not "choose not to," but "refuse") should be denied medical care when they get sick. That hospitals and doctors should be preserved for those who "deserve" their care. The president himself launched into a tirade condemning millions of Americans who don't think like him...then turned around two days later and issued a call for unity.
And here's where we start getting back into what we were talking about last week - the way that our culture uses words to try to guilt or shame us into one response or another. In this case, when this group says the word "unity," what they really mean is that everyone who has so far been holding out on their own principle should finally cave and do what they've been told to do for the past 9 months. Everyone should just shut up and do what the majority or the powers that be or whoever wants them to do.
Everyone should do what I want them to do. You know, in the name of "unity."
But here again, this isn't unity. This isn't what the word means, and it's not the heart of the idea. It's not even the heart of America's reaction to the actual 9/11 events. Nearly everyone agreed that we needed to do something, but not everyone agreed on what that something should be.
Some turned their attention toward the survivors. Some turned their attention toward rebuilding these areas. Some turned their attention toward the deceased. Some turned their attention toward the terrorists. In response to the events of 9/11, Americans set their faces toward one thing - healing together - and then spread out in a multitude of directions to make that happen. Together, we covered a thousand different needs, made a million different plans, put into action countless tiny things that marched us forward as a people. No one would say we were not united, even though we all had different responses.
Yet today, they want to use "unity" to argue that there is only one response. Only one thing we should all be doing.
And I don't buy it. I cannot look at the real unity of 9/11 and think that uniformity is better. I cannot look at any threat that America has faced - nationally or locally - and believe that we would be better off if we all did exactly the same thing. I think we're better when we're allowed to let our hearts drive our responses...and not our politics. I think we're better when we respond as human beings.
And just look at the pandemic, if that's what you want to do. Some have turned their hearts toward medications and vaccines. Some have turned their hearts toward caring for the sick. Some have turned their hearts toward protecting their vulnerable neighbors. Some stayed home; some went to work. Some cut down on the social burden of having everyone out; some courageously stayed out to provide for everyone. Some have celebrated victories; some have mourned defeats. Together, in all different directions, we have loved each other. Together, we have said - we will make it through this. We have come together in beautiful, beautiful ways over the past year and a half. Despite what the voices for "unity" are trying to suggest. We can't let our culture take this away from us.
Our unity - which we already have - is sacred, too. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.