The worst about Sept. 11 resulted in the good
Mark was mental. He’s better now. When I say mental, I mean six to the dozen, hearing voices, listening to polka music, head-case deferment from the Vietnam War draft, nuts.
He wasn’t one of those happy, crazy types. He was nasty and negative and occasionally violent, but as I said, he is better now.
Mark is married, has a daughter in college and writes for a Boston newspaper. His cure was a combination of drugs, counseling and time. He speaks candidly of his affliction and the antidote.
When I recently asked him what was the worst thing about being nuts, he said it was a one-sided view of the world. He said his definition of crazy was the inability to see the good with the bad.
“When I was sick,” he said, “I only saw the negative, the evil, selfish, hopelessness and despair. I still see that, but I can also recognize the love, passion, promise and pride.”
Mark aside, the one common denominator I’ve noticed about whether a person is happy or miserable is the ability to recognize the beauty while acknowledging the beast. During the 12 months since Sept. 11, 2001, the best and the worst of humanity were evident. I think it is important to acknowledge that the worst made the best possible.
When you step back from an act or event, the pain and beauty are clearer under the light of time.
For me, the greatest tragedy was that the atrocity was committed under the human interpretations of the edicts of God.
The cold, hard truth is that few religions are guiltless when it comes to cruelty committed in the name of the prophets.
The bastardized understandings of Allah are not dissimilar to the misinterpretations of the Bible. Both have resulted in mass subjugation and genocide. I wish I could deem both my church and country guiltless, but I cannot.
There is no way to overstate the unmitigated pain and grief unleashed on Sept. 11, 2001, but there was also much beauty in the behavior of the rank and file. The bravery of public servants and the charity and kindness of the world’s people went a long way toward providing a balanced perspective.
The last year also has increased the average American’s consciousness of the beliefs and cultures of those with whom we share this planet.
We began to consider and care about how the rest of the world views us.
Most of us could not fathom how so many who knew so little about us could wish us so much harm. A culture that takes the time to see itself through the eyes of others is less likely to commit the sin of arrogance.
When our country and allies began bombing Afghanistan, it was therapeutic to many, not only as a step toward global security, but also as a way offering just desserts to a people that we felt had wronged us.
Unfortunately, many innocents suffered and died, and the man who was responsible for the terrorist attacks escaped. While some praised the war effort as needed and necessary, others wondered what good might have been done had we spent that “war money” somewhere else.
I will leave that reckoning to God and history, but it was impossible not to be respectful of the dedication and bravery of our men and woman in uniform.
“It was the best of times and the worst of times.” So reads the first line of Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities.” I’m sure many would argue there was little during the last 12 months that could be described as “the best of times,” but I would disagree.
If the horror of the single most evil act of my lifetime had never happened, we would be a happier, yet less-evolved people. We never would have seen the bottomless compassion of our people, nor the resiliency of our country and Constitution.
My buddy Mark once said, “Even a worm sandwich comes with dessert.”
And as I mentioned before, he’s not crazy.
Biff America can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA and KYSL radio, and read in this and other fine newspapers.
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