9/11 Ten Years On: The City On The Hill

When I was growing up, I remember adults who were alive during the 1960s discuss where they were when President John Kennedy was shot.  My mother, specifically, to this day, remembers watching Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.  Until September 11, 2001, we of my generation, the so-called ‘millenials,’ did not have that common reference point.

But now we do.  For us, the images of the United States under attack from the forces of darkness abroad is arguably the seminal moment that we as a generation will define ourselves.  What has that moment done to us?  It has, in many ways, inspired a new patriotism.  This new patriotism is not uniform and it takes many, many forms for each of us.  But, as this article indicates, it is indeed more pronounced than amongst members of my parents’ generation, the baby boomers.  Along with the Great Recession, I think that Americans 0f my age are more cognizant of the limitations that American power has.  And I think that this is a good thing.

As a nation, we have to be aware of the limits of the ‘hard’ military power that we can project beyond our borders.  And I think that we have to rely more on ‘soft’ power, namely, diplomatic, cultural and economic power.  If we adopt this strategy, along with the recognition that we cannot recast the entire world in our image, we can do a better job, a more effective job, at making sure another terrorist attack cannot again claim the lives of thousands of Americans.

In recognizing the limitations of what we can accomplish that we can, somewhat counterintuitively, achieve more.  I don’t mean to say that the US should just stop getting involved in global affairs, but if we pursue more reasonable, more modest goals of engagement with the world, we are going to be far more able to accomplish them, without alienating allies and biting off more than we can chew, particularly by ourselves.

It was the early American governor of Massachusetts John Winthrop that asked that America would become ‘the city on the Hill,’ and that by moral power and conviction in that what we are doing is right, the eyes of the world would fall upon us, and we would become a beacon of the righteous, the just, the good.  Let us again become that Great City on the Hill, and in so doing, do honor and justice to those comrades that gave their lives on 9/11, so that others will not have to make that same sacrifice.  God Bless the United States of America.

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