9/11 Museum: Pride and Pity
I do not consider myself a stereotypically “American” person; I detest most beer, baseball bores me, and I do not take pictures drinking said detested beer in front of American flags at frats (seriously, did I miss some memo that that is a mandatory part of the college experience?). I also recognize the millions of issues, ranging in magnitude, that this country faces. Yet at the same time, there are many parts of my country that I am proud of, among them being the millions of people who give their life for the country. After a recent visit to the 9/11 memorial museum in New York, I felt just as conflicted about my pride and pity for my country.
The contents of the museum itself were impressive; there was an astronomical amount of objects, pictures, movies, and inscriptions to look at. There were two actual fire trucks on display that had been damaged that day while responding. The information was plentiful and clearly explained each object. As expected, looking at some of the objects, such as people’s wallets with pictures of their children that were found, was beyond sobering. The descriptions really gave a sense of identity to each victim.
I have to say though that a lot of descriptions, not the ones about the victims but rather the ones surrounding the attacks and the events following it seemed a bit too pro-american. Now before you throw your guns and apple pies at me, telling me to get out if I do not believe America is the greatest country on earth, allow me to explain.
I certainly do not believe America is the greatest country on earth for reasons far too plentiful to go into here, but a big portion of it includes political policies. Honestly, if anyone has paid attention to the news, the actual news and not just what the media tells Americans, then they would realize hmm maybe a country where some people are still innocently persecuted and sometimes killed is not the best. Granted, all countries have their issues as well. I feel that a lot of times America as a whole, like other countries, does not always acknowledge the issues it faces, as I saw in the museum.
There was explanation of the War on Terror that transpired after the attacks, but it did not go into enough details I personally felt were needed about the effects of that war. One of the biggest things that really exemplified these ideas for me was a framed letter sent from an elementary school aged child to one of the fire departments I believe that responded. I forget the exact wording, but the letter read something along the lines of “I’m so sorry for your losses. I love America, we will win the war against Afghanistan”.
Now, I understand that a young child cannot possibly comprehend all the details and events surrounding the attacks. However, I feel that it is that child’s teachers’ and parents’ jobs, as Americans, to explain to him a little more clearly that the War on Terrorism is not against an entire country, but rather on terroristic groups in or near that country. If that is not explained to that child, then he is probably going to grow up with a sense of prejudice against Afghanistan and its citizens. He needs to be taught that just like in America, there are good and bad people in the country of Afghanistan. Just because someone is from Afghanistan absolutely does not equate them to being a terrorist. We cannot teach America’s youth that America is the absolute best country because then by default, they grow up with a sense of looking down on people of other countries. They need to know the basic facts, and as they grow up and learn more details, they can decide for themselves whether America is the greatest country in their opinion.
It is certainly not my intent to offend or diminish any of the tragedy surrounding the attack on 9/11. I have nothing but the deepest sympathy for every victim of the event and immense pride in the courageous passengers on Flight 93 who steered the plane into a field. I believe in many ways America is better than a lot of countries, but there are some ways that it is not. I just feel that we need to stop propagandizing America as the greatest country ever in order for our youth to be more culturally aware and accepting.