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Can one man’s death, 10 years later, unify a troubled nation?

May 11th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Ben Zaritsky

Nearly 10 years ago, I sat and watched a plane collide into the Twin Towers.

Instead of learning about geometry, or whatever it was I was supposed to study in school that day, my afternoon was spent listening to speculation as to what had happened.

Was it an accident? Did something go wrong with the airplane? Was it terrorism? If so, who was behind it?

Every television in my high school was turned into the news. Every period was spent talking about what had occurred, and the ramifications it would have on our world.

I kept hearing that September 11 would always be a day that I would remember; that, just as when President Kennedy was assassinated, Americans would always remember where we were on 9/11

In the months and years after the attacks, I watched as our country plunged into war in an attempt to lash back at the horrible events of that day. I saw security in airports and U.S. border controls tighten. I saw ideologies change, and our definitions of “torture” and “due process” blurred. I saw Americans come together, and eventually, I watched as America split apart again.

All of this could be traced back to one man: Osama Bin Laden.

Bin Laden was a driving force in the 9/11 attacks. He was cited as the reason for our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His actions led to us taking measures to reduce personal freedoms, to strengthen our intelligence-gathering, and to endorse measures of interrogation that we had previously not thought humane.

Osama Bin Laden is now dead.

When I learned that President Barack Obama had ordered a special ops strike on Bin Laden’s hide-out in Pakistan, I knew the world—and America—was changing again.

Since the attacks of September 11, religious extremism has grown out of control in America, our economy has all but collapsed, and political divisiveness has increased as stress over safety and finances has driven political “discourse.”

We have witnessed tornadoes and floods in record-breaking numbers, and at great cost to our country and ourselves.

With so little we can agree on, it has been nice to see that we can at least agree on one thing: finally we can have some closure on Osama.

From Fox News to MSNBC, newscasters praised the efforts of our troops (Fox even congratulated Obama). There was little partisan malice. There was no attacking Obama for his decision. People gathered outside the White House to sing the national anthem and chant “U.S.A! U.S.A!”

For one instant, America seemed in agreement and happy again.

I would hope that this unity would be remembered.

Despite the upcoming 2012 election, the negative campaigning, and the widespread disagreement on other domestic issues, I would hope that this event could help close the gap on some of the issues we have been fighting over as a nation.

While I don’t expect, or even want, everyone to agree on everything (after all, diversity of opinion is one of the things that makes us great), I do hope that we can start to put the events of the past behind us.

We are far from being in the clear from threats of danger. There will always be terrorism. There will always be threats.

But one of our biggest threats comes from our inability to find compromise and work with each other.

We as a nation banded together after September 11 to comfort each other and try to repair what had happened.

The death of Osama Bin Laden may help us, if only for a short time, find ways to band together again in order to help us face the crises that confront us now.


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