20 years after 9/11

A group in deep thought during the Accelerator in 2019.

Today I pray that our wounds and the wounds we have caused, heal.

With all the other things happening in the world, I was surprised how the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks impacted me. I found myself thinking more and more about that day and how I experienced it. How the campus of my law school closed and then was evacuated even though we were hundreds of miles away. 


I remember my mentor and Professor Makau Mutua telling us in our human rights seminar that the psychological impact of the towers falling would create ripples in the human psyche that could be used to promulgate great good or great evil. 


In the years that followed, we certainly did see great evil done in the name of avenging the people that perished on 9/11. We saw the normalization of militarization, furtherance of racism and xenophobia and the embrace of propaganda instead of fact. 


Barbara Lee, in her 2001 speech before Congress where she cast the only  “no” vote on the invasion of Afghanistan said, “This unspeakable act on the United States has really — really forced me, however, to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction… “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.”  It is only 20 years later that many of us appreciate her clarity and compass. This example of monumental progressive leadership is what each of us are called to wherever we find ourselves.


As we think about the world as it is today, it’s hard not to think about 9/11 as some sort of turning point in society. Yet, so much of what we work to change in our society— racism, heteropatriarchy, classism, and imperialism— was very present before this tragic event.  Police brutality, colonialism, sexual harassment, Islamophobia, homophobia were alive and very much tolerated in US society. In this context, many of the collective responses to 9/11— invasion, harsh immigration laws, further militarization domestically and violence were the fruits of our poisonous tree. 


Yet we must remember it was the resistance to such forces that was monumental. Thousands marching together, coalescing across movements to fight the invasion of Iraq, dehumanizing immigration policies and racism only captures a bit of the resistance people around the world displayed.  Movements fed into movements and today we are more aware, more connected and in some ways, better positioned to resist the urges of our past and their current forms and manifestations. 


Today I pray that our wounds and the wounds we have caused, heal. 


I hope that we continue to strive to really see one another and challenge one another to always strive for justice and community even in the most difficult of times. 


And, as always I truly believe that we will win.  Maybe not in my lifetime. But, I believe that through our consistent work to learn and unlearn, to act boldly and sacredly, and by cultivating what MLK referred to as the “beloved community,” we are going to win.

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