I find social media, and media coverage in general, somewhat unsufferable when it comes to 9/11/01. I was living in Alexandria, VA, at the time. I was working just 5 minutes away from the Pentagon. I mourned the loss of a coworker who was on the plane which hit the Pentagon. I watched the smoke rise and the planes land on that day. All of which to say, I experienced the fear and mourning in a very personal way.
But in the years to follow, we have boiled the experiences of that day into the motto “Never forget.” I’d like to suggest that we can do more. We can transform the pain of that day into something much greater than an exhortation to never forget.
What if #NeverForget became “No One Else”?Try this on for size. It’s been 15 years since 9/11/01.
It’s been 12 years since the Madrid 11-M train bombing.
It’s been 9 years since the Yazidi communities bombings.
It’s been 2 years since 700 people were killed in Syria by ISIS.
It’s only been 10 months since the terror attacks in Paris.
Instead of circling the wagons, what if we took action to save lives through humanitarian aid? We know that when we educate the women in a community and provide birth control, the entire community benefits. We know that extremism flourishes in poverty. We know that our policies in the last 15 years have not reduced terrorism. What could we do to bring safety to the rest of the world?
What if #NeverForget became “No More Oil”?
Yesterday I bought a 100% electric car. It will run on energy generated here in my state, produced by American citizens. When we buy oil from the Middle East, we are sending money to repressive governments, some of which directly support terrorist organizations. We’ve had 15 years to turn off the gasoline nozzle. There have been electric cars around even longer than that. And yet there are only a handful of fully electric cars on the market today. Providing money to terrorists is only one of the reasons to wean ourselves off the non renewable resource of petroleum! What if 25% of Americans had bought electric cars after the BP oil spill? And what if 25% more had pledged to make their next car an electric car?
Look, I get it. I’ve been dreaming of an electric car for about 5 years now. Not everyone can just go out and buy an electric car. But what if just 25% of the new car purchases in 2016 were fully electric? What could that do to the market? California almost mandated zero emissions, but then backed down. What an opportunity, lost!
What if #NeverForget became “Stay Connected”?
One of the fondest memories everyone shares is how, for a few shining days, New York City became a place where everybody knew your name. The world rallied around the USA in sympathy. We donated too much blood to be used. And now we are right back to where we were before the attacks, barring entry to refugees because of their religion, calling for the Presidential candidates to go to jail (both of them), seriously talking about building an actual physical wall on one of our international borders. Why did we lose our sense of connection? When did we decide that someone’s views on abortion or birth control or gay marriage were more important than the fact that each and every person is precious?
It's time to embrace again our understanding that we are all in this together. It's easy to think that there are good guys and bad guys. But at the end of the day, there are just people, making decisions based on fear or love, or a mixture of both. We can increase the amount of love in the world. We can stay connected, even to the supporter of the "wrong" candidate.