I write on the morning of September 11, 2016, 15 years after the horrible attack that ripped us apart . . . before it pulled us together as a nation. I, like all of you, will always feel a solemn and deep sense of patriotism when I think of the first responders running toward the World Trade Center. I will never forget the way neighbors stood together after that horrible day, lighting candles, talking with each other, feeling more like brothers, like Americans, than we had in a generation.
It was the terrible beauty that came from the rubble of that day.
I have heard the question posed since 9-11 regarding Islamic extremists, “Why do they hate us?” Why would people from across the globe plot and send their sons to slaughter our innocents, and the innocents of others around the world? Where does their hate come from? I have heard a number of answers: they hate us for our freedom, for our western ways, for our occupation of Muslim countries, for our economic advantage, for our arrogance. It is hard to know the truth of the genesis of hate in any man’s heart.
Today I ask a different but related question – why do we hate each other? Why do we look for what is different, find it, and scream about it? Why do we belittle, criticize, and demean each other at every turn? Why is that our go-to thought? When we see something that isn’t quite right in our estimation, why do we immediately tweet, “That person is terrible!” or “That network is terrible!” or “That candidate is terrible!” And when we see those tweets or Facebook posts, why do we like or retweet, passing on the hate? What is it in us that wants to embrace the battle, that feels good being on one side and against our bother, that likes hurting someone else?
If you knew your tweet or comment made a young girl cry, would you still tweet it? Does it matter to you if she is a Republican’s daughter or a Democrat’s? Does it matter if she is a BYU or Utah fan? Does it matter if she “had it coming”? Is that even possible? What was the payoff for you in posting? Truth? Justification? “See everybody? I told you how terrible they were, and they are!”
What is truth? A man tweeted this morning that Fox News was the only network talking about Hillary Clinton’s near fainting spell at the 9-11 Memorial. “There was a complete media blackout everywhere else,” the tweet read. I saw that tweet while watching 20 minutes of coverage on that very issue on CNN. I tweeted to tell him CNN was covering it. He told me “You might want to do your homework. At the time that tweet was written they were not. Stop misrepresenting what I wrote.” His followers loved that smackdown. “Stop providing her cover Amanda.”
I truly have no agenda in commenting on Hillary’s health, on whether the heat got to her today, on what caused her weakness. I am one of those journalists who likes facts. I just wanted that man to know that there was no “media blackout.” Can we not even talk about whether or not a story is being covered without demeaning each other?
The answer right now is . . . no. No, we cannot. When I shared a video made by an African American woman supporting Donald Trump, people were outraged that I would be part of his propaganda machine. When I share comments made by veterans against him, I am accused of trying to get Hillary elected. Why can’t we just be interested in facts? The first woman supports Donald Trump. The second group criticizes. We listen to both, and decide how we feel.
Can we not hear information without shouting the other person down? Do I have to belittle another person, network, football team or their fans in order to feel good about my own? Where is the bond that held us together shortly after the terrible, terrible tragedy of 15 years ago this day?
Does it require pain to pull us together? Can we not find the love and respect for each other that are deserved for no other reason than that we are human? When someone is cruel to me, I know there is pain underneath the anger. My prayer is that I respond to the pain and not the cruelty.
My prayer for all of us this Sunday September 11th morning is that we look for ways to change the conversation. If we all see a hundred posts or tweets a day on average, how many of them are cruel? How many of them are kind? How many of them are just factual? I love critical thinking – it’s critical people I struggle with – and what has been interesting to me in 30 years of broadcasting is I begin to notice that the two don’t seem to exist at the same time. When I am being critical and heated, I am not usually thinking critically, and vice versa.
Today I offer respect to all of my brothers and sisters who feel love in their hearts for this country, and even to those who do not. We are all Americans. We stand or sit or kneel together, and I have love in my heart for all of us. I offer this prayer to lower the anger in our voices, to listen more and shout less, to see the genuine effort being made all around us to do the best we can every day. It is extraordinary. It is beautiful.
As beautiful as the crisp blue sky of a September day.