A date which will live in infamyJanuary 7th, 2021
“a date which will live in infamy”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dec. 8, 1941
the day after the attack on Pearl Harbour
Someone I follow on Facebook posted on Sept 11, 2020 this powerful reflection:
On Sept 11, 2001, I was a senior in high school. I remember watching the plumes of smoke leaving the Twin Towers and thinking, if America dropped the bomb and put people in internment camps for Pearl Harbor, what would America do to retaliate this time?
During the jingoistic, flag coated months that followed, I couldn’t think. Every flag reminded me of the American love of war and revenge. I wouldn’t rise for the pledge, I couldn’t shake the dread of how bad it was going to be for the world.
Now we know how bad it was…
Today’s been a day that’s been incredibly difficult to process – everything that’s entered my mind in relation to the United States has been surreal, perhaps less from shock and horror than of knowing this explosion was a bomb that’s been ticking forever… like, today was hardly a surprise (and maybe that’s the saddest part of all, to know that this has been on a slow boil since – well actually since the very dawn of American history). That the boiling point was exceeded when fuel was dumped all over the long-burning fire of the ideologically-damaged and hate-filled extremists today is the culmination of so many forces that have made it possible.
I have found today that I’ve needed to take the news in reflective doses. I couldn’t take the intensity of tv news or anything live about this (in fact, I offer huge respect for journalists or online editors who have been able to capture and write to some degree of eloquent summary or opinion about a quickly unfolding very emotional situation in almost real time).
I think my capacity around something so deeply concerning is that I can only cope by critically stepping back and just observing from a distance, in a bit of isolation, and being able to have a degree of control of the shock that’s unfolding before me. I think I’ve lost the mental strength to keep up with such emotional news and have any input while it’s unfolding… I need to step back and think. But then, eventually, it always becomes enough to think about… and I can’t just sit back and watch forever on the side-lines: when horror is unfolding it’s time to then process, reflect and somehow relate about it (often through journaling or blog-writing or sharing with others in their experience of what’s happening). And, maybe eventually, when I get ready to do something after I see the world falter, the reflecting can lead to acting!
So, of the course of today, I accumulated a lot of images, video, and social media comments from all over. My first reflection is that there’s a huge change that’s happened in how we consume news about horrific historical events in the 19 years since 9/11. Back then, it unfolded over live news on TV and we watched as the information was disseminated by journalists to us. It was primarily our immediate communities/families/friends gathering together and watching as the news unfolded.
News today is a globally-shared-and-contributed-and-shaped experience through social media. That’s both good and bad… the wealth and variety of information, the speed of sharing, and the community around sharing the experience is good / the mental intensity and the proliferation of unfiltered bias and hate-skewed misinformation is disastrously bad, especially for those who have vulnerable minds that can easily be fed slanted ideology.
Though I don’t use Twitter as much these days, when a news event is happening it’s pretty much my go-to for checking out global sentiment – and today it was certainly front-and-centre of the unfolding crisis. In reflecting, I think about the advantages it brings to the sharing of the news and the world’s reactions; but it chills me to know that it’s also a big contributor to the extremism. And, in deep reflection, it chills me to imagine if 9/11 had Twitter and we were getting live updates from everyone on scene or inside the buildings.
So, I finally reached the point of the day when I had accumulated enough watching of the crisis and felt ready to process and relate about it.
And then I paused: before I started writing this reflection here, it dawned on me that sharing/retweeting/posting any of the images or comments that I watched unfold in the news today wouldn’t really accomplish anything further for me or anyone reading my thoughts. By this late at night, everyone’s been traumatized enough by what they saw in the news – we don’t need to re-process it through another lens!
Instead, this is the part of the night after a traumatic day when it’s time to reflect on where we are together – what we need from ourselves, each other, and our global humanity as we go to bed and wake up tomorrow:
- we know that no matter how dark the night gets, dawn comes the next day!
- and with the dawn each day, we have the ability to make things a little better! That must be our remedy to a world that seems to be collapsing sometimes
- and we know that the problems of the traumatized world we saw today are not beyond our power to fix. As much as we saw the state of things in America erupt in the most extreme way today, we also know that this hate and extremism exists right in every country, in our own cities/communities/families/networks and immediate lives too. That means, therefore, that we have an immediate and local and in-our-lives ability and responsibility to champion the good, to always uplift hope and kindness in ourselves and each other. The greatest cure to hate is love, always… and we can be the greatest fortitude against extremism at every turn by promoting love always
To bring it home, the most immediate example of love and kindness being the antidote to hate, these are the two poles of what we saw happen in the States today:
- the extremists’ insurgent riot at the Capitol “did not happen spontaneously but at the instigation of Donald Trump.” This was largely promoted by hate-skewed social media messages
- At the same time, President-Elect Joe Biden shared a completely different tone on social media, one of calm: “The work of the moment and the work of the next four years must be the restoration of democracy, of decency, honour, respect, the rule of the law… just plain, simple decency.”
Just Plain, Simple Decency.
That’s all we need!