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AMERICA

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  • AMERICA

    I heard this on the radio this morning and it brought tears to my eyes.

    Reprint from the Miami Herald 9/12/01
    Leonard Pitts
    Published Wednesday, September 12, 2001

    We'll go forward from this moment
    It's my job to have something to say.
    They pay me to provide words that help make sense of that which
    troubles
    the American soul. But in this moment of airless shock when hot tears
    sting disbelieving eyes, the only thing I can find to say, the only
    words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this
    suffering.

    You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard. What lesson did you
    hope to teach us by your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our
    Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was,
    please know that you failed. Did you want us to respect your cause? You
    just damned your cause. Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled
    our resolve. Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us
    together. Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and
    quarrelsome
    family, a family rent by racial, social, political and class division,
    but a family nonetheless. We're frivolous, yes, capable of expending
    tremendous emotional energy on pop cultural minutiae -- a singer's
    revealing dress, a ball team's misfortune, a cartoon mouse. We're
    wealthy, too, spoiled by the ready availability of trinkets and
    material
    goods, and maybe because of that, we walk through life with a certain
    sense of blithe entitlement. We are fundamentally decent, though --
    peace-loving and compassionate. We struggle to know the right thing and
    to do it. And we are, the overwhelming majority of us, people of faith,
    believers in a just and loving God.
    Some people -- you, perhaps -- think that any or all of this makes us
    weak.
    You're mistaken. We are not weak. Indeed, we are strong in ways that
    cannot be measured by arsenals.
    IN PAIN
    Yes, we're in pain now. We are in mourning and we are in shock. We're
    still grappling with the unreality of the awful thing you did, still
    working to make ourselves understand that this isn't a special effect
    from some Hollywood blockbuster, isn't the plot development from a Tom
    Clancy novel. Both in terms of the awful scope of their ambition and
    the
    probable final death toll, your attacks are likely to go down as the
    worst acts of terrorism in the history of the United States and,
    probably, the history of the world. You've bloodied us as we have never
    been bloodied before.
    But there's a gulf of difference between making us bloody and making us
    fall. This is the lesson Japan was taught to its bitter sorrow the last
    time anyone hit us this hard, the last time anyone brought us such
    abrupt and monumental pain. When roused, we are righteous in our
    outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of
    barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length,
    in the pursuit of justice.
    I tell you this without fear of contradiction. I know my people, as
    you,
    I think, do not. What I know reassures me. It also causes me to tremble
    with dread of the future.
    In the days to come, there will be recrimination and accusation,
    fingers
    pointing to determine whose failure allowed this to happen and what can
    be done to prevent it from happening again. There will be heightened
    security, misguided talk of revoking basic freedoms. We'll go forward
    from this moment sobered, chastened, sad. But determined, too.
    Unimaginably determined.
    THE STEEL IN US
    You see, the steel in us is not always readily apparent. That aspect of
    our character is seldom understood by people who don't know us well. On
    this day, the family's bickering is put on hold. As Americans we will
    weep, as Americans we will mourn, and as Americans, we will rise in
    defense of all that we cherish.
    So I ask again: What was it you hoped to teach us?
    It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the
    depths of your hatred. If that's the case, consider the message
    received. And take this message in exchange: You don't know my people.
    You don't know what we're capable of. You don't know what you just
    started.
    But you're about to learn!


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