We will never be the same again, now that we have witnessed what we have witnessed. This thought comes to me as a flash of insight, a thread of consciousness to tie loose ends together and to explain or at least attempt to explain a shift that is happening now to all of us.
Not as obvious as the 9/11 attacks where thousands died in crashes and debris, the attacks we are experiencing presently are like a thousand paper cuts. And we who are Americans are being pushed into an awareness of ourselves as vulnerable even though many of us can’t see it or even know it is happening. On 9/11 we all knew what was happening. It was in our faces and the images are burned into our memories. A tragic day of destruction, heart-break and sadness, that day brought us together and brought us out of our daily-life distractions and unified the country in one mournful moment. I remember going to church the Sunday following the 9/11 attacks and the pews were full. People needed to see each other and connect as Americans, to process our grief, to feel our oneness.
Now, today in our country, there are forces at work that revel in our dismay, in our dis-function, that wish to bring us to our knees – not by bombs or hijacked airplanes, but by information – by attacking our hearts with arrows of discontent, distrust, dis-information and dis-ease, dis-belief, and by rallying our darkest fears – bringing them to the surface, giving them a voice, placing them on stage with a megaphone where they can rally to gather others of like-fear and grow stronger in the division of our unified American consciousness. I call it “information terrorism.”
These slow and steady info-attacks in many ways are the catalyst to the next level in our evolution. We would not be aware it is happening unless we stopped to question, to investigate, to probe and uncover why we are so divided, so disheartened, so angry, so mean, so hopeless, so frustrated with our government, with our neighbors, and with ourselves. We can’t see evidence of this kind of attack, but we can see the carnage, the results, the outcomes. We see anger and violence, arguing, shutting down, estrangements and polarization. Fear is rising up as the dominant force causing us to lose trust in our government, in our institutions and in each other.
However, there is a silver lining. Just as 9/11 prompted us to take notice of the ways in which we took our safety for granted and make changes to deter future terrorist attacks, this wave of information-terrorism is prompting us to question the ways in which our thoughts and emotions are swayed by information – or when information is specifically designed to elicit a particular response – propaganda. Truth and Transparency are itching to emerge and we are wanting now to be completely honest and to see the truth in all situations. In this case, it is not just our physical safety that is the primary focus of efforts to prevent another tragedy, but our very way of life as Americans: freedom of speech, our democratic system of government, and our shared values that must be upheld and protected.
How do we protect ourselves against info-terrorism? We can put the responsibility outside of ourselves to the places where we receive and consume information and expect those outlets, those virtual hubs to monitor, filter and block mis-information, hate speech and the like. Or we can take responsibility inside ourselves, to the place where we take that information and weigh it against the values we hold in our hearts.
How do we get to a place where we can trust that each of us shares the same values in our hearts? And what are those values? This info-terrorism is pushing us to identify those values that we all share, to define them in terms we can all agree on and to uphold them above all else. I think it can be simplified into a few basic beliefs that apply regardless of class, race, income, political affiliation, or ability:
- people are people and all want to be accepted and loved for who we are.
- people want to be valued as human beings
- people want quality of life: clean air, water, food, Nature’s beauty, creativity, health and vitality
- people want the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive
- all people deserve respect, understanding and compassion
If we see differences between ourselves and another, making some more deserving or better than others, then none of this is possible. We need to use our imaginations to begin to see ourselves as aspects of each other. The old saying, “there but by the grace of God go I” means that by some twist of fate in this life, I happen to be a white woman born in a northeastern state to a large Italian family steeped in blue-collar values, raised Catholic in a neighborhood of similar folks. It’s what I’m comfortable with and familiar with. I could have been born an African-American boy in a southern state on a farm in a rural community with a dad who died when I was 2 and a mom who struggles to put food on our table. Or I could have been born into a high-net worth family with unlimited disposable income, comfortable in settings with others of like status and wealth never knowing or understanding what struggling to survive is like. How different our life experiences are simply because of who and where we are born!
In a country as diverse as ours, it is difficult to imagine that we will all agree with each other on any topic, but on these few basic principles of human existence, I think we can all find common ground. Let’s use the silver lining of these info-terrorist attacks to practice more patience, more discernment and give each other some space to get to know each other so we can see the shared humanity, learn to value each other and then vigorously defend our American way of life by becoming involved in our communities, getting to know one another and affecting real change at a local level. Eventually, we will come to know ourselves first as individuals and then as part of a community, part of a nation, then ultimately as part of the human race living in cooperation and harmony with ourselves and with the natural world. It is possible and this is what I hold in my heart and mind as I contemplate our evolution. We will never be the same again, we will be better equipped to be patient, kind, understanding, compassionate, discerning, intelligent and courageous. Peace on Earth, Good will toward all. Let it be so!