It’s that time of year again. Fifteen years later, and I still cannot wrap my head around what happened. I’ll never be able to. I’ll never understand why anyone would hate so much that they would kill themselves just to try to destroy the thing they hate. I’ve been angry; I’ve even hated some people and ideals. But I will never comprehend that level of pure, unadulterated hate.
I do not believe politics and religion should have anything to do with each other (and neither did America’s Founding Fathers), but this op-ed from the Los Angeles Times today tries to clarify why many Muslims do. There is no separation between civic law and religious law for them. That’s cool. That’s why Muslim countries are what they are. But it doesn’t explain why some zealots decided to impose their version of Islam on everyone else, why the destruction of everything they did not agree with became their sole cause. Blaming every other Muslim for these lunatics is not the way to end terrorism. That is just more hatred I do not understand.
On this day fifteen years ago, the United States was ushered into a world that most other nations had been living in for decades. It is a world of fear and worry and, yes, hatred. It is poisonous, and you only have to look at the current election cycle to see what it has done to us. I am ashamed of all the people who think the Republican candidate is right. They are giving in to their anger and hatred. They are letting their fear win over any possibility of hope or peace. They are the most un-American Americans I have ever seen.
It’s hard to remember the world before 9/11. It’s hard to remember a time when a football player’s peaceful protest became headline news (seriously, there are WAY more important things going on). It’s difficult to visualize a world where we weren’t looking for bombs in every forgotten bag and backpack. It’s hard to picture the New York skyline without that huge scar of blank space on it. (Yes, they’ve built a new tower, but it just isn’t the same; it never will be again.) That’s partly why I chose Ryan Adams’ “New York, New York” as my song this year. It was filmed right before the attacks, and you can see the World Trade Center towers standing tall and proud.
But there’s another, more important reason I chose this particular song. It’s one of two that thoroughly embodies my emotions surrounding 9/11–the other is Bruce Springsteen’s elegiac “My City of Ruins”. A huge part of my love for this song is tied up in its connection to this life-changing event. But unlike the Springsteen song, it is not filled with sadness, it is not mourning what is gone. It is full of optimism and joy and life. Adams wrote the song long before 9/11; it has absolutely no thematic connection with what happened. The video was filmed before the attacks; the only reason a disclaimer had to be added was because it was obviously released after everything was irrevocably damaged. “New York, New York” is a love song–although whether it is for a person or the place is both unclear and irrelevant. Yes, the singer had his heart broken, but he isn’t going to let that stop him. He isn’t wallowing in his grief and pain. He declares “hell, I still love you New York.”
“Love won’t play any games with you any more if you don’t want ’em to.” Love does not lie. It can be a little misguided, and it can hurt sometimes. But it is the only truth any person will ever need in this, or any other, lifetime. Love builds space inside your heart for the whole universe. Love lets you see the world from all other perspectives. You might get angry sometimes. You are definitely going to be sad and scared. But love will always shine a light that leads you out of the darkness.
So I wish for the same thing I wish for every year on this day: that we all just love each other. Don’t give in to hate and fear. Don’t build any walls. Don’t stop people from coming to this country. Don’t ban ideas. Stop bombing people. Stop shooting people. Just stop. Listen to what the other side says. Learn about their culture and religion, and teach them about yours. Prove that you are not trying to destroy them. Prove that you really believe in the Enlightenment ideals this country was founded on. If we handed out food and books and medicine more often, maybe the kind of hatred that flourishes in some places would just die out. Because nothing kills hatred like love.
I’ll always love you New York. I’ll always love the whole world, no exceptions.