Power and powerlessness
We all know that our world was rocked, shocked and changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001. And on Sunday, many of us will spend time peering through the fractured kaleidoscope of memory, revisiting the horror and the heroism that is now imbedded in our national history.
What we don't know, perhaps will never be capable of knowing, is what we, as individuals and as members of a small community, can do with any kind of lasting effect to alter the probability of another 9/11, to shift, even in some micro-increment, the balance of the world away from the forces of ignorance, fear and hatred that spawned the attacks.
We have a habit, in the aftermath of tragedy, of looking for lessons to explain the experience, sifting for diamonds through the rubble.
With a decade to reflect, the lessons of 9/11 don't seem any clearer or closer and depend largely on which political filter they are passed through.
The arguments are now well-worn and familiar: We were attacked, continue to be attacked, and will forever be attacked because we are big, we are rich, and because we presume to impose our culture, our values and our model of living on others, while extending our power too visibly, too arrogantly and too far.
Or, we were attacked by evil forces who hate us because we love freedom.
Or, we were attacked because we allowed Sadam Hussein to invade Kuwait, then threw him out of Kuwait while stationing American troops on sacred Saudi soil, thus enraging the Arab-hyper nationalist Osama, whom we had earlier armed and trained to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Unraveling the web of reasons for 9/11 is exhausting and there are no doubt kernels of truth in every argument littering the geopolitical landscape.
But none of that comes very close to home, on what promises to be an idyllic Sunday morning, when the names will be read of people who practiced a humble heroism and selfless courage, who unhesitatingly entered an inferno and died true heroes in the cataclysmic collapse of the twin towers.
It is rare that we are witness to such acts of sacrifice, and maybe as we honor those who died on 9/11 we can weave their example into the texture of our own lives.
Because if there is a lesson in all this, something we can find comfort in, maybe it is the simple cliché that the world we want to live in, where atrocities like 9/11 can no longer happen, can only be built by the examples we set each day in each of our lives.
At one level, we are powerless to prevent another Osama from attacking the world we live in. At another level, we have enormous power to support and appreciate the life we share and enjoy in Sonoma, beginning with the fundamentals of kindness and generosity toward each other.
Recently, the Kenwood School District won overwhelming approval, with 81 percent of the vote, for a parcel tax to support its single school. A large percentage of those voters live in Oakmont, a 55-plus adult community with not a single child in school. That was generosity, that was kindness, that was an answer to 9/11.