Tired? Mad? Confused? Frightened? Weary?
By NANCY PATRICK
Recently, our country commemorated the events of September 11, 2001. Amid the sorrow expressed across the nation, I saw glimpses of the patriotism I saw back twenty years ago when the effects of the terror attacks were fresh and raw.
I will never forget the moment I learned of the tragedy. One of my senior English students at Abilene High School entered the room after running an errand. As she came inside, I noticed her ashen face and large eyes. She came to me and said, “Mrs. Patrick, something terrible has happened in New York. Terrorists have flown planes into the World Trade Center.”
Word spread quickly as teachers opened their doors and began obtaining televisions and combining classes so we could all watch one of the greatest tragedies in our country’s history unfold before our eyes. A rare hush filled the room as tears flowed down cheeks.
We all know what the next twenty years brought—not only to our country but to the world. Most of the world grieved with us and allies joined with our military as we began and pursued a war against the terrorism we perceived and defined. United States flags appeared in windows, car magnets, yards, businesses, and schools. For a while, our citizens pulled together in unity as we felt a common bond founded in fear and a sense of purpose.
Unfortunately, the war continued for years. Our troops served bravely and made great strides against the enemy; however, as the years passed, the enemy continued to thwart many of our forward steps. For whatever reasons, this war drew on for twenty years, costing approximately 7,057 lives in war operations, 30,177 suicides, innumerable non-fatal casualties, 6 trillion dollars, and pervasive divisions within our country as people began aligning with political sides, not just for platforms, but for basic beliefs about morality, democracy, economy, public health, education, science, and just about everything else that separates us from one another.
Wherever we get our media (television, magazines, newspapers, blogs, social media, podcasts, etc.), we recognize strife, negativity, anger, disillusionment, hatred, fear, exhaustion, and a sheer weariness of the soul as I have not witnessed in my lifetime. True, I did not live during the Depression or WW II; however, from my history lessons, I sensed a kind of human connection during those dark days that I do not detect now.
Frankly, I feel great disappointment and fear that the end of the humanitarian culture in which I grew up may have eroded beyond repair. Even though some people have nostalgic thoughts of past generations, attributing more happiness to the “good ole days” than they deserve, I do remember (even as a child) that family and neighbors formed communities.
In the September 4 issue of the Abilene Reporter-News, I read a story entitled “America’s Addiction to Red Hot Outrage” by Rev. John Hudson. His article along with other articles listed some of the recent issues that have divided Americans: Covid issues related to school, masks, vaccinations, and mandates; racial concerns that climaxed with George Floyd’s death; handling of the exit from Afghanistan; immigration; abortion laws; gender identification; the truth about the January 6 insurrection at the capitol; and what some consider the general unfairness of life.
I won’t spend my words writing about the sides of each of those issues. We have heard the arguments presented repeatedly. Although I love my country and appreciate all the blessings I have as an American citizen, I would rather use my words to promote healing.
As I consider the list of grievances above, I try to look for the reasons people take one side of an issue rather than the other. Yes, we all have our own ideas, values, histories, goals, dreams, and needs. On the other hand, we share so many aspects of life. We all love, need basic provisions, fear loneliness and feelings of worthlessness, want to hold on to what we perceive as ours, fear sharing or losing what we want or need—all legitimate concerns.
Rev. Hudson coined the word “maddiction” in his Sept. 4 article. He said many Americans have become “maddicts.” I thought about it—a lot. How mad am I? Am I mad often? What makes me mad? Why do I get mad about things that really do not concern me personally? Is my anger harming me or others?
I have come to the conclusion that I am indeed a mad, angry person much too often. What can I do to ameliorate my anger? I must first examine my own heart. I learned as a child that I should love others as myself. I should love others as God loves me. What exactly does that mean?
I really don’t have all the answers, but I struggle to find the answers God wants me to find. For example, I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world. Born as a white American, I had many advantages and opportunities that I haven’t earned. In addition, I have a good brain, healthy body, and a physical appearance that does not draw undue attention to it. I had an adequate homelife and excellent education, and my life choices proved successful.
Having recognized all those benefits in my life, I now need to look over that list of grievances again to see how I can improve the tenor of my interactions with others. Although I won’t mention each issue, I will confess that I need to follow the Golden Rule in expressing the tolerance, kindness, understanding, and generosity that I would like to receive.
I chose to accept the Covid vaccination, grateful for the speed with which scientists developed it. I will wear my mask as long as I think it may make other people feel more comfortable or safer. I will thank God that I did not lose any loved ones in the recent wars that cost so many lives, and I will thank God for all those patriots who fought for my safety and liberty.
I will remember that I do not know all the back stories for many controversial decisions and, therefore, I need to refrain from excessive criticism. I will remember that many generations ago, my ancestors came here from somewhere else, giving me American citizenship that I did not earn. Before I judge a woman for her decisions regarding her body and future, I will thank God that I never faced such a difficult choice.
I want to live among people who care for others without judgment. I want people to put aside ideologies and work for the common good. I want us to reclaim the spirit of unity and patriotism that our country exhibited during WW II when everyone seemed willing and eager to contribute his or her “bit” for the good of all.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing