Politics & Prejudices
What might have been
A glimpse into an alternate past, and the way forward
Published: September 14, 2011
I think most of this could have come true, although it might have been harder to neutralize the far-right lunatics than I want to pretend. However, we clearly could have done better.
Better than a world where we are involved still in two pointless wars that we have been — admit it — mostly losing. Better than a world where our own government has abused its power and trampled the civil liberties of American citizens.
Some good things have come out of Sept. 11. At least in this part of the world, most Americans know more about Islam and Arab and Muslim Americans than they did on that day.
In Dearborn, there seems to be much more tolerance and acceptance on the part of both European and Middle Eastern Americans. Open bigotry is no longer socially acceptable.
Leaders of those communities, in a refreshing sign of growing confidence, are increasingly willing to criticize their own groups as well as others. At a panel I moderated over the weekend, Dawud Walid, the executive director of Michigan's Council of American-Islamic Relations, reminded people that most Arab Americans are not Muslims — and most Muslim Americans are, like himself, not Arabs.
He challenged the community to produce imams who were American and could speak to American concerns.
Salam Al-Maryati, national president of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, said Muslims needed to do a much better job interacting with Christians and Jews. He urged them to tell their own stories. "When Richard Nixon said, 'I am not a crook,' what did everyone think? So we need to stop saying, 'I am not a terrorist,' and instead tell people who we are, not who we are not," he said.
Nobody knows how Sept. 11 will be remembered in the future, except that eventually, the anniversary will be gradually forgotten as it fades in time and new disasters occur.
Yet it would be nice if, a century from now, we remembered it as a sad milestone that started the process of greater understanding.
And as a day for borrowing the words, never again.
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