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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Days of Future Past - Remembering the Fallen

May you live in interesting times.
Chinese curse

Until six years ago, I never really understood that curse. We are approaching the sixth anniversary of the day that changed America, forever.

I finally had a chance to see the movie "World Trade Center" and could not keep back the tears remembering that day.

I was helping my niece, Jasmine, get ready for school that morning. The morning cartoons she was watching as she ate her breakfast were interrupted by the news of the first plane hitting the towers. Moments after they went live, the second plane hit, sending flames and debris into the morning sky over New York City. My niece looked confused and turned.

"Uncle James, what happened?"

All I could do, in the shocked state I was in at the time, was say that something very bad had just happened. To this day, I still do not know how to adequately explain to a child about that day.

Looking back in my mind while watching the movie, I wonder if we as a nation have learned anything. I, for one, have taken many lessons from this horrible, historic event.

First, Americans are capable of so much more than we are doing now for each other. During the events of September 11th, 2001, people rallied together to help dig survivors out of the wreckage, heal those who were wounded, donate much needed blood, and comfort those who lost loved ones in this unforgivable attack.

Second, it made me realize that we as Americans can never take our safety and freedom for granted. It is something that must be fought for and protected with our very lives if our children are to know what it is.

Third, it made me realize that we must continue the struggle against oppression and fascism which is still very much alive in our world. Where there are men and forces that would work to harm and intimidate mankind into slavish obedience to any philosophy or religious dogma, we must be ready to oppose it with deadly resolve.

The attack against the World Trade Center was an act of war, undeclared and cowardly, no different than another attack that happened over 60 years ago. Perhaps you have heard of a place called Pearl Harbor? If not, ask your grandparents.

During the Civil War, there were almost 500,000 deaths. During the First World War, over 100,000. During the Second World War, over 400,000. During the Korean Conflict (America's forgotten war), over 50,000. During Vietnam, over 90,000. During the Gulf War, a mere 2,000.

Now in Iraq and Afghanistan, so many in our nation are screaming over the deaths of just over 3,000 over the past three years. Have we forgotten how many have died before to secure and encourage freedom around the world?

Don't get me wrong. I hate war. I wish we as a race could come up with better ways to handle our conflicts. It is unfortunate that the tree of freedom must still be watered with the blood of brave warriors. I agree with Eve Mirriam when she spoke of one day having a child who would ask her "What was war?" But as John Stewart Mill said:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

We as Americans must remember these words, least we loose our resolve to maintain the freedoms that we have so richly enjoyed. If we do, our children's futures will be poorer for it. Personally, I struggle not for myself, but for my niece and my nephews. I hope that one day they can take their children to a museum where our guns, bombs and machines of war will be displayed the same way that instruments of torture and archaic weapons are now. I hope they look upon them with startled amazement that such devices could ever have been used. I pray they look up at their parents and ask.

What was war?

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