I spent yesterday in Urbana, Ohio. I participated in a very moving memorial event, not only for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 but most specifically for Alicia Titus, a then 28- year-old flight attendant who lost her life on United Flight 175 as it hit the second tower of the World Trade Center.
Alicia’s parents are Beverly and John Titus, who I met not long after September 11 when they were traveling around the country to meet with people they considered peace builders. The Titus’, along with other family members of 9/11 victims, had formed a group called “Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow” in honor of their lost loved ones. Their goal was to influence the national conversation, and by extension governmental policy, so that love and peace building measures would find more place in our response than would hatred and revenge.
How successful were they? The answer, unfortunately, is plain for all to see. The overwhelming power and influence of the militarily-minded foreign policy establishment in Washington, D.C. made wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the centerpieces in our multi-trillion dollar War on Terror. Their efforts, as we all know, have ultimately done more to fuel the war on terror than to win it.
But this year can be a chance for a national reset. Knowing what we now know, it is time not only for our leaders to reassess - it is time for us to reassess. Instead of again surrendering our power as citizens to the established authorities who ultimately led us on a path of such military disaster over the last twenty years, are we ready to claim our power, retire their obsolete ideas, and choose another way?
I understand our acquiescence to their ideas originally, our willingness to just let them “do it their way.” But there is no justification or rationalization for us continuing to do so. Congress abdicated its Constitutional authority to exercise true oversight, but we need not. Our military madness over the last 20 years has killed more people - many thousands of times more - and caused more destruction than the terrorists did on 9/11. We betrayed our own soldiers and humanity at large. In so doing, US policies created even more terrorists around the world, diminished America’s reputation as the embodiment of just or even democratic ideals, and - let us not forget - made defense contractors and their stockholders extremely rich in the process.
Their doing that for twenty years, shame on them. Our continuing to let them do it, shame on us.
It is time for us to choose - and the choice is ours, not anyone else’s - between a culture of war or a culture of peace.
Peace is not just the absence of war; war is the absence of peace. The only way we can disrupt the inexorable power of an endless war machine is if we, with equal intensity, proactively create a culture of peace. It will not be easy, as the resistance will be strong, but it is as necessary to our survivability as a species as is the effort to mitigate the climate crisis. In the words of former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, “We must challenge the belief that war is inevitable.” And we must challenge the forces that reap its blood-ridden profits.
For Alicia, for her parents, and for all those like her who lost their lives and their loved ones on 9/11, let us all rise up now. Let us say, “No more.” Let us be the ones who do whatever it takes to create the political will to choose another way.
On this day, may I become the peacemaker you would have me be.
I surrender who I am, what I have, and what I do
to the cause of peace.
On my watch, may the world transform.
In my heart, may the world be reborn.
In my mind, may ideas burst forth
that help provide another way.