I've been caught up a lot in politics lately, but today is different. Today was full of specific grief and random thoughts on the human condition.
I have two reasons to grieve today. The first is that my dad on September 11, 2010. Thinking about my dad and how my mom must feel with the hole he left in her life after 53 years proved a sobering thought that made me reflect on his life and the person he was. He was a father who worked two jobs for several years to make life better for his family. He was an immigrant who had to work when he first came to the United States at fourteen to help support the family, who watched as friends who came over on the boat with him received special tutoring and were allowed to work on their academics. He told me this bitter regret when he was in the hospital, several days before he died of pancreatic cancer. It was why he never finished high school. He felt that he would have been farther along in life if he had been allowed to focus on school. He had promise as a soccer player and could have easily gotten a scholarship for it. In spite of overwhelming odds, though, he rose into the middle class from abject poverty, and left my mom with enough to make her comfortable, at least financially. Grief isn't comfortable, and she's not done with it.
The second reason, of course, is the attack on 9/11/2001.
One of my first thoughts of the day was about the firefighters. One of my friends posted a picture of firefighters raising an American flag. Think about their job. They risk their lives--and sometimes lose them, as many did on 9/11--to save total strangers. That's what they signed up and trained hard to do. What firefighter decides to go into that line of work with thoughts of money, fame, or power? What person decides to be a firefighter who isn't selfless? I have the utmost respect for people who decide to do this job. Other first responders--police, paramedics, and everyone else who rushes to an emergency--deserve that respect as well. They are what's best in people.
Soon after the thoughts about firefighters, I saw a story about how this pizza shop in Florida, called Big Apple Pizza, was losing business and getting fake bad reviews because the owner gave President Obama a bear hug. I didn't see it as a political story. I saw it as a story about hate and racism. How hate-filled do you have to be that a hug bothers you? The people who spewed vitriol at the workers may not be racist; they may just have to hate the President that much, but it's still the same irrational hatred. Disagreeing with a person's policies doesn't warrant being bothered by someone hugging that person. I have a difficult time believing that this hate isn't rooted in racism. I don't think the same reaction would have taken place if Scott Van Duzer would have hugged President Clinton, as hated as he was by some right-wingers.
I thought about how hate-filled people had to be about a hug, and that led to trying to wrap my mind around the hate displayed during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. White people turned hoses and dogs on black people because they wanted to enjoy the same rights and privileges that white people enjoyed. They wanted to go to the same schools, ride the same buses (without seating restrictions), eat in the same restaurants (with section restrictions), drink out of the same water fountains...get married to who they wanted to, no matter the melanin content of their skin. And for that, fire hoses and dogs. Hate. It doesn't make sense, and it makes me grieve.
After the thoughts on racism and other hate, I came back to 9/11, watching a video of Jon Stewart's first show after the tragic event. It made me think of how everyone gave blood, gave money, wanted to help. I remember the unity, I remember the anger, the grief. I remember watching watching the news coverage in shock. I remember thinking "We're under attack" as soon as the jet hit the second World Trade Center tower. I remember how we had a moment where we could stand together and rise above the event, bringing out what's best in humanity. Instead, we were told to go shopping. Instead, we put troops into a country instead of running covert operations. Instead, we were fooled into a war (well, I wasn't, but...) with a country that had nothing to do with the attacks. Instead of remaining united, we became more divided. We fostered more hatred.
I think about these things and grieve.