How much have we learned since 9-11?

By MARY ANN SORRENTINO  |  January 14, 2009

When Israel launched recent attacks against Palestinian foes, killing hundreds, president-elect Obama and others repeated the familiar mantra of pro-Israel support, decrying Hamas and citing Israel's right to self-defense, ignoring how dead children, on both sides, know no politics.

Washington is motivated more by the economics and politics of war than by the promise of peace. Even when Jewish scholars find fault with Israel on occasion, US support of raids and rocket attacks remains unwavering.

Meanwhile, more than seven years after 9/11, our nation still fans the rage of those disposed to hate us by refusing to address this blind spot. When allies protest possible injustices against Palestinians (as Europeans did by the thousands last week), we remain silent.

Fifty-two percent of Muslims worldwide are said to be below the age of 20. The non-Muslim world, conversely, is top-heavy with elders. We may soon just not have the stamina to support the myth that America knows best, loves peace, and defends human rights around the globe without prejudice.

Last week, I visited St. Paul's Church, next to Ground Zero, in New York City. This house of worship served as a refuge for rescuers and the rescued in the horror of 9/11. Not a window cracked even though it was surrounded by hell.

A message of encouragement for New Yorkers, from Oklahoma City sympathizers, still hangs above the altar. A cot, like the many brought in for those needing rest from death and destruction, embodies the genuine shock and awe of that day. I wept — not only for those lost at Ground Zero — but also for how little we have learned.

I cried mostly for the flicker of hope I thought I saw after November's election, blown out by the cold winds of Ground Zero and the possible consequences of the still-unresolved conflict in the Middle East.

Much as Americans support Israel's rightful determination to protect its hard-won homeland, no government is above occasional errors in judgment. Afghanistan and Iraq, meanwhile, suggest that no amount of American investment can resolve centuries-old religious differences.

St. Paul's peace cannot take root in a United States compromised by political greed, dishonesty, and xenophobia — just a few of our afflictions.

If Obama truly wants to be the president of all Americans, this would make him the president of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and atheists, too.

The "change" America wants to believe in includes movement away from business as usual — even when it may offend voters or donors unaccustomed to not having their way.

If we can't move in that direction, we may be condemned to repeat the sad lessons of a history — political, economic, and civic — we seem unwilling or unable to learn.

Related: What's wrong with the Palestinians' U.N. gambit, Obama's year two to-do's, Review: Miral, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Barack Obama, Barack Obama, U.S. Government,  More more >
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