I know that none of us Americans will ever forget the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings of what happened 5 years ago today. This, more so than any event in my lifetime, has truly defined our nation and shown the world what we are made of.
In many things, there is so much to be proud of: the first responders that day, the search and rescue workers that followed in the days and weeks afterwards, the awe and respect we had for each other as Americans, our wonderful armed services and their complete faith and dedication before, during and after the momentous events of the last five years. With these and many other events, we showed the terrorists and the world that we will survive and that we, as a nation, are strong and caring.
These situations, however, have another side. This side contains Abu Ghraib, unlawful, government authorized, phone taps, secret CIA prisons, known terrorist prisons where people are being held without representation or charges - such as Guantanamo Bay, and many others. I'm sure that others could be named, but through these events, we've shown the world that we do not own the moral high ground, and what's more, that we are scared.
To me, the best tribute we can give those who died and those who live, would be to regain our moral compass. Abu Ghraib - regardless of how it came about - cannot be allowed to happen again - ever. Our government needs to be held accountable for its unlawful actions in the fight against terror. Make no mistake, if phone taps and prisons truly are the best way to fight terror, so be it. I do feel though, that the government MUST follow the laws set forth or work to generate the appropriate changes necessary. They cannot be allowed to illegally pursue paths which are fundamentally dangerous to what we, as a country, were founded on. Think of it - there is outrage because websites like Facebook more easily display what has been openly authored (similar to this blog), yet where is the outrage when we find out that MILLIONS of conversations have been unlawfully recorded, people are arrested and held WITHOUT charges, or better yet, held in secret CIA prisons because they are SUSPECTED terrorists. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Freedom of speech? Right to privacy?
I've disagreed with the principle and reasons behind going to war in Iraq. Not because I think Saddam was a great guy, but because I worry about the unintended consequences. Many people say that at least we are fighting the terrorists over there - but to me, what we're doing is training the terrorists. Unfortunately, it is a situation we created and concientiously, we cannot abandon the fight for freedom we started there. It would only make the situation that much worse.
Yes, I'll remember, every day that I'm lucky to be alive, the sights, sounds, and even the horror and terror I felt that day five years ago. I'll remember those that lost their lives and the heroes then and now. I'll keep in mind that bravery isn't fearlessness, just an ability to act without letting fear paralyze you or turn you from your morals. In addition, we also need to keep in mind that we still need to fix the things that were, are or have become broken as a part of this tragedy. The main purpose for this is because we cannot allow ourselves to abandon our principles in this struggle. Many innocent people gave their lives five years ago because others felt they had the moral right to take their lives. Many more heroes die everyday fighting for our freedoms, rights, beliefs and ultimately, our morals.
So, the question becomes, do we tribute those lost their lives with forfeiting our freedoms, beliefs and our morals? Or do we use our morals as a guidepost to find the appropriate path to safeguard our freedoms and beliefs?