And one of them is how much worse we have become, as a nation, at being decent human beings.
We like to tell ourselves that 9/11 brought us together. But that's not really true for all Americans. And for those who were "brought together" by a mutual hatred for people they neither know nor understand, it's a dangerous unity, and a patently un-American one at best.
Proof in point. This morning, Scott "Divide and Conquer" Walker had the temerity to post this status update on facebook:
The responses are full of jingoistic fare, heartfelt memorials, and critiques of the governor's hypocrisy in claiming to be "united" with the people of this state or this country. Here are two of many telling examples:
In 2013, too many Americans use 9/11 as a barely disguised excuse to "remember" how we're supposed to stay "vigilant" against the threat of a people we define solely by their religion; a religion most of us know little about, but have learned to fear and distrust, if not outright hate.
Orientalist thinking did not begin on 9/11. But the rise in tolerance for intolerant attitudes toward Muslims - and people from the Arab world in general - has become a shameful hallmark of post-9/11 America, and has become normalized in the mainstream in ways that I never would have thought possible, even as someone who studies this topic and teaches the discourse of racial discrimination.
The proliferation of hate and our collective tolerance of it has led to wars we can't end, attitudes we feel powerless to change, hate crimes we try to dismiss, overt racism we simply ignore, and hateful thinking that we do too little to address or prevent. We owe it to the memory of everyone who was affected by the tragedy of September 11, 2001 to change that.
There are many ways to change. Through education. Through dialogue. Through friendships. And, perhaps most importantly, by remembering that the strength we find in unity does not discriminate.
Each of us only has one life to live. These lives are our own, to do with what we please. But we share one world in which to live them. Let's find ways to make that world a better place for all of us.
[Note: this piece has been edited to remove a link to a satire piece from the Daily Currant that totally punked me. I'll believe anything about hatemongering Islamophobe Ann Coulter. Sorry.]