It was a beautiful spring morning in Chile. I was on my way to a meeting when I first heard the news. The lady was really excited and I had a tough time understanding exactly what she said. From what I gathered, two twins had been killed in the United States. The picture was intensified upon arrival. One of my American colleagues was a reservist and was about to lose it. The two twins being killed were clarified to be the Twin Towers. I was also told the Pentagon, the White House, and everything living within the U.S. had been bombed as well. The reservist was almost in tears.
Being 8,000 miles away from the United States gave me a slightly different view of what transpired on Sept. 11, 2001. I was in South America, in a country that annually celebrates a U.S. backed coup d’etat that overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973. I fondly referred to Sept. 11 as riot day, because riot they do. Living in Chile opened my mind to a different side of American politics that I hadn’t been taught in school. As the day progressed the events of that day became clearer to me. My “patria” had been attacked.
After watching the towers fall time after time, I began to wonder what was to be done. I have always been a bit of a catastrophist and things of this nature have been permanent residents in the emptiness of my head. I knew what was going to be done, but I also knew what should be done.
I knew the President of the United States would stand in front of the press and give a speech. I knew vengeance would be called for and would be promised to the American people. I considered it a given that the U.S. would soon be invading foreign shores in search of those responsible. The speech would be what most wanted and what was expected, for we are the United States of America.
The “should be done” list reads a bit differently. The president should have stood in front of journalists and announce to the world the country’s resolve to withstand terrorism and defeat it on every continent. He should have proceeded to declare to the world our intention to outstretch our hands to those who hate, in hopes that they would learn. “Our strength,” he should have argued, “lies not in weapons or armies, but within our ability to peacefully maintain our way of life.” The American people should have applauded when he said, “We will not kill to prove killing is wrong. We, the people of this great democracy, will stand up to terrorism by spreading peace and knowledge to every inch of the globe, until it has penetrated every country and made the terrorists afraid to preach their hatred.” He could then declare, “We are the United States of America.”
My compatriots we as a nation failed that day. We resolved not to spread peace but to continue to wage war, to fight terror with terror. We decided to kill to prove killing is wrong. We are no different than those who made the plans, and stated the orders. We chose to kill.