on 9-1 - the Attack on America
war via email, cell phones, and wall-to-wall television coverage,
my initial response was unlike what you see of our 1940s heroes
on the History Channel.
I stared ahead in dumb shock. I cried.
As twentysomethings, we've always been intrigued and inspired by
the deeds of what Tom Brokaw dubbed 'The Greatest Generation.' From
Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor to Stephen Ambrose's Band of
Brothers, we've struggled to connect with their heroism.
But we've been something of a Lost Generation, absent a cohesive
and unifying force - Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK
assassination - to galvanize us. Indeed, the most incredible domestic
event of our lives (before September 11, 2001) was a contested presidential
election that, if anything, widened our rifts.
We've longed for the deeds of our heroic past because, to us, it
seemed black and white: Good guys. Bad guys. Military might. Patriotism.
Winning. Losing. Simple.
I wondered: how would we have reacted then? Would we have flinched
from the challenge? Would the geopolitical map look wildly different
today? Would we have even made it this far?
And I worried: what would happen if such a challenge arose today?
Would our divisiveness continue to sabotage us from the inside?
Would we flinch and cower from the gravest responsibility like we
flinched and cowered from the minor ones?
Now we have our answer.
The headlines of tax cuts, NASDAQ, WTO riots, Eminem lyrics, and
butterfly ballots evaporated in the smoke-filled rubble of our two
most famous cities. The malaise of living for ourselves was erased
by footage of wild celebrations in far-away lands.
They cheered our suffering.
What does that mean? More than anything else, it means we have some
work to do.
This war, they tell us, will be different. It will be fought in
shadows, fought with propaganda, fought with public opinion and
heightened security. They tell us that things are muddled, that
we don't really know what to do, don't know who to do it to.
But our course of action has never been clearer. We - a Lost Generation
that may have found itself in the midst of unspeakable horror -
will do what Americans do best, what Americans have done better
than anyone in history.
We will get back on planes. We will clean up the mess. We will manufacture
our goods. We will go to church. We will give blood. We will go
to rock concerts. For heaven's sake, we will watch baseball.
At the base of lower Manhattan, we will build a 111-story monument.
We will project a surehanded faith and confidence all over the world.
Our embassies and diplomatic missions will reopen, and they will
continue to reach out to the world. We will not neglect our humanitarian
duties in the Middle East, in central Africa, in the Balkans, or
here at home. We will provide a stern but loving face to the omnipresent
fight for freedom.
If it comes down to it, Lord bless us all, we will fight.
We have been challenged.
We will respond.
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