The events of Sept. 11 caused me to rethink so many things, as have most of us. I am a child of the '60s. At the dawn of the new millennium I wished to show my support for all those people who died, and all of their families, by some outward, tangible sign. For me one of the ways was simply to fly the flag in front of our house. I held that flag in my hands and was transported back 35 years. There was almost a battle raging then over this simple fabric I held in my hand.
On one side was "America, love it or leave it!" On the other were many slogans that cannot be repeated as the chanters were rebelling against everything, including language. I feel the underlying argument was to either accept the status quo political leadership, or to ask hard questions about the status quo. The nation learned to question the decisions of those in authority, to have almost a blood thirst for the truth.
I held that flag in 2001 and decided it did represent solidarity with all those who died. It represents our nation with all of its warts and all of its potential. I hang that flag proudly not as a knee-jerk reaction but because I believe in the potential of our nation. We have been forced to stand at a cusp in history even more important than the Vietnam War. We can huddle in fear and hatred of all those who are other than ourselves, those who choose a different path of belief, those with different skin, cultures, ethnicity. We can turn on those who have different goals for our neighborhoods, communities, businesses, environments, lifestyles. Or we can search for our common ground, for the things that tie us together, for our mutual humanity. We can learn to walk in the shoes of the other, to understand and savor differences because differences enrich our society. We can learn to listen to other points of view, we can learn to be generous again as a nation. And, yes, we can learn to pray together.
Separation of church and state is essential to maintaining our freedom to worship or not in our polyglot society. We cannot afford to champion any form of worship over any other. But we can bring God back into our daily lives. Those who choose not to believe in any God have that right also. There is no force to pray or make any external sign of belief, and there must never be any. On the other hand, our nation was founded on many principles, and a God concept was one of these. As we become home to so many diverse cultures our national concept of freedom to worship must also become more inclusive, not less. By opening our hearts and minds to others and other forms of worshipping we can only enrich ourselves, and thereby, our nation.
I feel so much fear right now. Fear that terrorist attacks will continue here and around the world. Fear that the U.S. will overreact and turn on the innocent as well as the guilty. Fear that hatred will fan the flames of war. Fear that both war-mongering and peace-mongering will cloud the issue of necessary action. Fear that we will not open our national coffers to build a healthier planet, as we have done in the past. Fear that the attitude of "all I can get for myself" will continue to run U.S. politics.
I have so much hope right now. Hope that we may become people who listen to one another, finding ground for common humanity between us. Hope that we can put the whole concept of other behind us. Hope that we can monger justice and love right now, and peace as soon as possible. Hope that we can create a generous society based on love and acceptance. In a sense, there are no limits to where we can take the planet right now. We can create a paradigm shift. Our potential is unlimited. And our wounded country, the United States of America, can light the way by reacting right now in firmness, justice, and love for all the innocent and helpless everywhere.
That is why I fly the flag.
Diana Runde of Juneau is a community volunteer and parent.