Today is a day that we remember towers and the Pentagon fortress and a field in Pennsylvania. And now, we are building walls from those towers.
This morning, I watched my neighbor raise his flag and them appropriately lower it to half-mast in remembrance of the lives lost on September 11, 2001. When I placed my flag in the mount on my porch column, I discovered that half-mast required allowing the flag to drag in the shrubs below. And I realized that when I placed that mount, I never took into consideration the eventuality of half-mast.
Half-mast has become increasingly commonplace. We once reserved it for great stateswomen and statesmen, remarkable heroes, and revered heads of government. Now we are at a loss for how to acknowledge the slaughter of innocents on our own soil and, most often, by our own people. So, the flags dip ever lower and more frequently.
In the course of my daily correspondence, I shared this with a friend:
We thought that by building towers we could see danger from a distance. When that proved to be ineffective, we embraced our fears and began to convert the twisted metal, the ashen brick, and our own nightmares into walls.
The walls were already present in our hearts. The acts of war and terrorism that were enacted on 911 brought us to attention. For a while, we felt sure that the threat to peace was solely outside our borders. As a result, some came to believe that walls will save us.
However, the ever-building threat is from within. It’s not just those who loathe our nation who are pulling the triggers. More and more often, it is those who nurture a false image of our country and who have no room for those who disagree or are only slightly different. Some blame guns. Or mental illness. Or flames fanned by those who would lead by fear. But it is also the personal walls we each build that allow these things to take hold and to contribute to the violence of our day.
Undoubtedly, there is a need for immigration control and constant security. But when we obsess from our fear, the fatal, choking walls are being built around our hearts. We are a people who, despite the misdirection of our leaders at times, truly want to be a nation that helps the rest of the world. We cannot afford to separate ourselves from humanity by building ever more formidable walls around our hearts.