Remember Me

“The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute to the strong.”  Gandhi~

The images and the video are still fresh in my memory.  I can still picture the blue sky without any clouds that morning when I was walking into class ten years ago.  Events were already unfolding, but I still did not know yet as to the overall devastating affects.  Even today, a tear still comes to my eye as I think back to that day, and it’s immediate aftermath.  Shock and tears were all that I could find.  The entire day just seemed completely surreal.  And as shock wore off, the anger began to show.  I, like many Americans, wanted heads to roll.  We wanted those who had any part of that awful day.

But here I sit 10-years later as a changed man.  I was but a young man when this all happened, and I knew not of the world that I existed in.  In the past decade, I have broadened my understanding of the world and of the various peoples that inhabit it much like I do.  The animosity that I once held has dissolved though still always questioning and always vigilant.  All that exists now are the tears that come whenever I still see footage from that day and the memorial services that are done every year.  Back in 2001, the emotions were raw and frayed as we came together as a nation and as a people.  We huddled together near any television we could and watched the events unfold before us.  We were there for each other.  We comforted each other.  And we hugged each other just a bit more.  I don’t think I had ever heard my college campus so quiet as I did that day.

“We must become the change we want to see.” Gandhi~

Our lives have moved on, but we haven’t forgotten.  And for those of us who lived through it, we never will.  We will not forget the people who were killed instantly, or the people that were trapped and had no way to escape.  We will not forget those that rushed into the buildings to help people out though they, themselves, never did.  We will not forget those at the Pentagon who rushed to the aid of their fellow coworkers.  And we will not forget the passengers of Flight 93 who fought back for control of their plane before letting it do any more harm.  These aren’t just names or a picture of a pretty face.  These are our countrymen.  These are our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, and our friends.  And in every instance that day, we proved what it meant to be an American.  We showed that our sense of community ran deep and out weighed anything that was taking place.

As we pass this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we must look toward the future while always remembering the past.  The events of that day should not consume us, but motivate us.  We should be more civil with each other and more tolerant of other cultures.  It is not an “us vs them” mentality that should define how we think and view the world, and stereotypes should be forgotten.  We are all one with the planet that we call home.  Let us bring about positive change that we so yearn to see.  Let us remember the unity that we shared for it shouldn’t be fleeting but something more permanent.

Our nation was attacked ten-years ago.  The events of that day have been burned into our minds and can always evoke an emotional response.  But as we set foot from this time and place, we must not lose faith in ourselves and each other.  The extremists that want to do us harm would like us to be against each other.  Maybe it’s time that we show them how their actions bring us closer together.  We should always believe, deep within each of us, that tomorrow will be better than the day before.  And as we get farther and farther away from that day, this unity must get stronger and stronger.  We will always remember what happened, the emotions we felt, and the lessons we learned.  But we must not forget who we are deep within our souls.  And as we pay solemn tribute to the lives that were lost, let us take pride in their actions… in their courage.

We will always remember…

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”Gandhi~

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Let Us Have Peace

Let us have peace.”  Ulysses S. Grant~

Who could have imagined that yesterday, May 1, 2011, would end up having historical significance not just for the United States but also for the world?    It was announced that the United States had finally killed terrorist and al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden… the mastermind behind embassy bombings in Africa, the attack on the USS Cole, and the 9/11 attacks.  For those of us that can remember these events, the news of the day brought great celebrations from the Atlantic to the Pacific and amongst our various world allies.  But within our euphoric celebration, we must also remember to be humble.  Yes, this man was seen as the embodiment against all our freedoms and yet, he was still just a man.

After the 9/11 attacks, we watched many Muslim people celebrate in that part of the world to the catastrophic events that were unfolding upon our soil.  (Note… not all Muslim people celebrated.  So don’t start going off into stereotypes.)  And yet, almost ten-years later, upon hearing of the death of its great mastermind, our people take to the streets to celebrate and be damned with the consequences of how this will look to the rest of the world.  In essence, we were quite hypocritical during the first moments of euphoria.  Instead of celebrating in the streets over this news (and thus celebrating our freedoms), we should use this time for reflection and contemplation.  The attacks on September 11, 2001, brought our nation together as very few events ever had before.  It was a time of patriotism and pride in all things that make our nation great.  And on this new day many years later, we should contemplate again what it means to be an American and how we now progress forward.  The war on terror is not over just because we chopped off the head of the serpent.  We must continue to be ever vigilant in our efforts to protect ourselves from those that would do harm unto us.

This is not a time for one party to claim victory over another party.   The capture or death of Osama bin Laden has been a goal through several presidential administrations… both Democrat and Republican.  Through the valiant efforts of our intelligence community, this day has been brought to us.  And they, along with our armed forces, deserve our utmost gratitude.  It is for the love of their country and countrymen that they serve us today… and most of them will never be known to us.

As we begin our march through the days and years ahead, let us remember what this man’s death meant to our nation and to the rest of the free world.  But let us not get caught up in the stereotypes that have plagued the efforts over the years.  This was just a man in charge of a small group of radical fundamentalists and should not be considered any further.  We should show the world that we have the ability to be humble in our times of great success while enjoying the patriotism that will unite us as a people once again.  The words of Gandhi come to mind at this time.  “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”  As we continue our efforts before us, let us not lose sight of who we are as a people and as a nation.  The principles upon which we stand for should never be sacrificed for the greater good, and we should always remember to hold ourselves to the high standards that we expect other nations and other people to live up to.  We are all one in the same… even if we see ourselves as different.  Let us remember that in this moment and for the times ahead.  That is how we can truly win.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln~ (March 4, 1865)

Korea, Part 2

How do you solve a problem like Korea?  After World War II, Korea was divided between the communist North and the capitalist South.  This was mainly done because when the Soviet Army was invading China to fight the Japanese in the final days of the war, the peninsula was bypassed.  In 1951, the leaders of North Korea bit off more than they could0chew.  They decided to challenge the new United Nations and their forces and invaded the south.  This has become known as the Korean Conflict (not the Korean War…as we usually refer to it).  The north almost immediately won as it caught the south completely off guard.  They advanced almost to the port of Pusan… the last Allied port in the south.  It was there, that the forces dug in and held out… known as the Pusan perimeter.  With reinforcements arriving, the US forces began to dig out and General MacArthur made his famous landing at the port of Inchon behind the North Korean lines… splitting them in half.  The Allied forces pushed the North Korean army back up and had almost taken all of North Korea… but then the southern forces bit off more than they could handle.  Despite warnings not to do it, General MacArthur started bombing bridges over the Yellow River (which makes the border between North Korea and China), thus getting China (a newly communist nation at the time) all rattled up.  So they entered the war and came to the aid of North Korea and pushed the southern forces back down.  By the time everything came to an end with an armistice in 1953, everything was pretty much back to what it was before the war started… with the border between north and south being at the 38th Parallel.

There have been tense issues between the North and South in the years since the war, but for awhile, those tensions seemed to be mellowing out.  North and South Korea began competing in the Olympic Games under just Korea…instead of being divided.  The two governments were allowing people to reconnect with loved ones on the other side at brief periods of time.  Where the South is capitalist and free… the North is communist and very strict.  One just has to look at a nighttime satellite image of the two countries to see the differences between the two.  But the road to a possible peaceful coexistence seemed to be in the formation for these two opposite countries.  And the Korean people might actually have the chance to be one people…though divided by a political boundary that would hopefully not require a DMZ.

In the past few years though, the tensions have been heightened as North Korea has talked the big talk so the other countries of the world would listen to it…alarming the leaders of South Korea.  But last week, those words became actions as North Korea opened fire on South Korean towns.  World leaders are greatly worried now and the US and South Korean forces are playing war games in the Yellow Sea hoping that will get North Korea to back down and avoid an all out war.

So would anything be different this time around if war were to break out?  The world is a much different place than it was in 1950.  Communism isn’t seen as a huge threat to the world anymore.  The Soviet Union no longer exists.  And China, though still communist and allied with North Korea, is also one of the western industrialized nations now.  The change in China’s economy in the last decade has made it a key player.  Siding with North Korea in a war against the West could greatly damage its booming economy and could set it back.  For the West, having China not in the global marketplace suddenly, could help boost jobs as our own countries would have start making things again… but prices would go up as our standard of living would make it.

So for the grand scheme of things, China would want North Korea to back down and for everyone to cool off.  Today’s global economy (which North Korea is not a part of) could greatly shape how this small skirmish will keep from becoming the next big global conflict.  If North Korea’s biggest and most powerful ally is telling them they’ve stepped over the line and they need to back off, I don’t think there is much the North Korean government can do but listen.  They would be greatly outnumbered if the entire western industrialized nations (China included) was against them.  It would be a futile effort and the country they are trying to preserve would be lost.

It is amazing that war was not declared immediately.  That cooler heads have prevailed for now in trying to get the North into backing down before things get out of hand.  Could this just be delaying the inevitable?  Maybe… but I personally don’t think so.  I think this is North Korea’s leader… Kim Jon il… trying to show that he can play with the big boys and shape world politics in his last days… as he has been shown in very fragile health and has been making plans for his successor.  We can only wait and see how the successor will act when he becomes leader…as he could decide to modernize his country more and that peaceful coexistence with South Korea and the rest of the Western nations could allow the North to grow and become a world player through peaceful means instead of by guns and bombs.

So now we sit and wait to see if those cooler heads prevail in bringing us all back from the brink of war.  Personally, I think that the Korea Conflict, Part 2 would go very much against the North… and could technically unite all Korea under the free South.  But is it really worth going to war over this?  No.  We are a war-weary populace now and the last thing we as a people need (and we as a nation) is another conflict to be involved in as we are trying to wrap up the others.  So let us remember the words of Gandhi that I’ve used many times before.  “May we cultivate peace in our hearts; peace begins at home.”  I would like to see North Korea become part of the global community…but it must do so peacefully and not by violence or by intimidation  China has at least proven that it can be communist and be a part of the western nations.  Maybe the North Korean leadership should pay closer attention to its ally.

Loss of Words

As a writer, I’m supposed to be able to convey a message.  On here, usually after some thought and research (if it’s necessary), I can put something down for all of you to read that makes sense.  And I’ve never been afraid to tackle the hard issues if need be.  But today, I sit down and start to write, and I’m not really sure where even to start.  This is more of a personal entry more than anything, but one that needs to be written.

Since this past Sunday morning, I have found my mind drifting back to my high school days and even to the course of my life since graduating.  Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with some people that I went to school with, but there are many more that I know that I probably should, as well.  On Sunday morning, I found out that a young man that I graduated high school with was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.  For the first time, the war has hit home and my mind is still trying to wrap around it.

Though there were probably only about 200 of us in my graduating class, I did not know Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Grider very well.  We had some classes together, but it is doubtful if we ever even said anything to each other…even in passing.  And yet, upon hearing the news of his passing, my heart and mind have been saddened, and I’ve even shed a few tears for this brave man that I once saw on a daily basis for four-years walking around the school.

I have tackled the issue of war before… but never has my mind been placed in such a position to where I’ve personally known someone that has been killed in the line of duty.  My personal convictions still stand, though.  War does not beget peace.  War begets war… and violence begets violence.  Peace can only be achieved through peaceful means and peaceful coexistence with each other.  I’m not trying to downplay our conflict in Afghanistan or the sacrifice that Aaron made for our country.  Quite the contrary.  Aaron is a true hero that put the lives of other people, whom he had never met, before his own.

So as my mind races through various thoughts and my heart continues to feel sad over the loss of a classmate and a worldclass guy, I cannot help but think of the words of Gandhi… which I have written on here many times before.  “May we cultivate peace in our hearts; peace begins at home.”  May we all find peace within ourselves, and may we all hug those that we love and care for just a bit more today.   For all of those who knew Aaron personally, I have only this last thing to say… may his ever-shining light never be extinguished from within but rather have it light a new direction for you all.  May peace and tranquility be found within all of us.

In Memoriam:

Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Grider

September 18, 1980 – September 18, 2010

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