On Monday night at the Democratic Convention all talking and rhetoric stopped for a moment during the solemn and touching remembrances for 9/11. (Click here, here, and here for accounts) I often chagrin the fact that 9/11 is exploited for political and consumer purposes; last night was different.
A profound quiet seemed to come over the proceedings as a few speakers gave words to haunting memories that still swirl within us. This time there was no rhetoric; no pleas to go out and buy more consumer goods to bolster the flagging economy; no war-time language to persuade a nation.
No, this time we were quiet. This time the words revealed our souls to ourselves. We were not divided along red and blue states. This time we were Americans.
As I watched the events unfold, even the talking heads on television were at a loss. They could not explain how the nation has become so seemingly polarized just two years after 9/11. In the days that followed those attacks, Americans seem united – not just in the face of terrorism, but in their resolve to address pressing social ills such as our public schools.
People have not changed since those September days. Our souls have not been corrupted. Our aspirations have not evaporated. Our desire to do the right thing has not abated.
The memories last night of 9/11 should not be consumed as some kind of nostalgia or cheap tear-jerk. Instead, let it remind us of what is lodged in our souls. I say this not just to our political leaders, but to those in the news media who must choose how to cover politics, and to those of us as citizens who must decide whether to engage in public life and how best to do so.
We could see ourselves again last night – yes, for some that means as Democrats; but for everyone, it means as Americans.