power of patriotism
To the Editor:
I am a fortysomething black male. My father was a career officer in the United States Army. With his guidance and encouragement, my brothers entered every branch of the military, serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Members of my immediate family served with honor in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. I witnessed America being torn apart internally in the '60s with the struggle for civil rights and the disagreement over our country's participation in Vietnam. I heard stories of America's reluctance to recognize the role of the black soldier in every war until the Gulf War, when our role was magnified by the leadership of Gen. Colin Powell.
Yet I had never felt a profound sense of pride in this country and its citizens until today, when the occupants of the Amoco building on Poydras Street gathered to mourn the dead in New York and Washington and to affirm our resolve to get through this most trying time. I watched with a renewed sense of pride as a rainbow of nationalities joined hands in prayer, waved American flags, and sang songs of liberty and patriotism in one loud, strong, unified voice. Tears freely streamed down the faces of many. I was myself overcome when two World War II veterans, one white and one black, waved flags together and embraced in an emotional show of patriotism.
The bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon beget a level of unity and camaraderie and determination, the likes of which I had never seen. I got the feeling that everyone on Poydras Street would proudly wear America's colors in the hunt for those responsible for this reprehensible and despicable act. Such compassion for those who unwittingly gave their lives for their country gently pulled at my heartstrings. But, more importantly, I have a renewed sense of what America stands for. I have a new appreciation for the many rights that Americans enjoy, but take for granted. America is far from perfect, but it's the best thing going.
Pierre A. Curry
Don't view as 'good' guys vs. 'bad' guys
To the Editor:
It is heartwarming to see so many people rally around a symbol of freedom at a time of so much sorrow. It seems all the more important now to really look at that flag and think about what it means and remember that blind patriotism is not what it is about. Zealotry and blind devotion is what brought about this horror, and it will not alleviate it. That flag is a symbol of freedom -- freedom to be different, to express different views, to choose a different religion or no religion at all. It is not a symbol of freedom only in the good times or when it is convenient. Our ability at this particular moment to be able to embrace other points of view is what we need. If we are not able to do this, then we lose.
Let us realize that this is not a battle of our God vs. theirs. If we believe in an all-loving God, then we have to accept that God loves the terrorists and their manipulators as much as God loves us. God does not play politics. There is not, nor should there be, any morality here. Remember that the attackers attacked with moral fervor and certainty; they believe that America is corrupt and should not be shown any mercy. If we attack them with the same fervor, how are we any different? They attacked us; this is true. They need to be punished; this is also true. But we cannot fight this as "good" guys vs. "bad" guys. With any honesty and humility, we cannot position ourselves as the "good" guys. We have spent the last half century fighting battles against governments and factions that we had sponsored and supported -- sometimes less than 10 years ago -- and we are about to do it again. There is nothing "good" about that.
There is no doubt that something needs to be done and should be done. I have surprised myself to no end realizing that if there were some need for aging modern dancers who are nearly blind, I would go. But it is tragically important that the response be honest and proactive. Yes, we need to remove these terrorist cells like cancer cells. But we need to accept the fact that it is partly our unhealthy lifestyle that has allowed this cancer to develop and spread. We need to improve our lifestyle to survive this cancer. We are very good as a country about legally allowing a multiplicity of views and voices. Unfortunately, we are a little less accomplished at letting other nations voice their opinions if they are different than ours. We do this hypocritically and, now, to our peril.
We are not such a simple people that we can only act once we have removed the doubts of reason. We are a maturing country now going through a baptism by fire. It is our choice whether we respond like a wounded dog, lashing out at what is at hand, or with strength and honesty to make sure that we not only respond to this attack but also work to make sure it never happens again. It is ethically and militarily the worst possible choice to puff our chests, stiffen our spines and wave a flag, hoping that the deaths of others will make everything all right. It will solve nothing and makes us even more vulnerable. This is our tragedy, our government and, now, our war. We have one chance to conceive any sort of good from this tragedy and it will not happen with hatred.