Today marks the 11th anniversary of 9/11. There is no doubt the United States is indebted to our active duty military, veterans and their families for the tremendous sacrifices they’ve made (and continue to make) on our behalf. What I’m struggling with is whether or not we as a country are deserving of their sacrifice…
Nations rise and fall based upon the values that bring them together or drive them apart. It’s been said we are a nation at war. In fact, many will correctly point out we are a country engaged in multiple conflicts. I beg to differ – we are a nation at war by proxy. What we are is a military at war, hamstrung by an indecisive government, and a fickle population mostly oblivious to the sacrifices of a few. History has shown us time and again the destiny of a nation is most often determined by its ability to unite around crisis and endure through shared sacrifice. The current state of affairs does not portend well for our destiny as a nation.
The simple fact is less than 1% of our country’s population serves in the military. This small percentage of men and women carry an extremely heavy burden, while their families live each and every day only one knock at the door away from devastation. It’s been said, “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to violence on their behalf.” But know this – our nations warriors cannot preserve ideals that we ignore, do not honor, or refuse to embrace.
We created the following infographic to offer some perspective as to the difference in our nations commitment and resolve by comparing our reaction to entering World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor with how we have reacted to the attacks of 9/11.
We were a mighty nation during World War II not because of our economic or military strength, but because of our national spirit. We were a mighty nation because of our ability to set aside petty differences, and to rally behind a collective commitment to a common set of values demonstrated by our willingness to sacrifice as an entire population. We are not that same nation today. We have mostly devolved to become a selfish people and a self-interested nation.
Other than in its creation, our world has never been perfect, and we’ll likely never experience perfection going forward. That’s okay, and most of us can accept that fact. What’s difficult for me to accept is we live in far too dangerous times to exhibit such callous disregard for anything other than ourselves, and if we as a nation don’t wake-up to this fact we will continue to see more chaos and calamity.
Our country must move away from self-interest and toward a bigger cause and a greater good. This is the only path to maintaining our might as a nation. The good news is greatness overcomes tragedy, and the power of a lasting and honorable legacy can fuel greatness that spans generations.
Bottom line: “The Greatest Generation” doesn’t have to be a historic reference. This is a country capable of having each generation become the next greatest generation, but only if we don’t lose site of our history. We must find a path back to sharing a common purpose in order to move forward in the fulfillment of our destiny.