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Honoring the Dead with Life
Paul Corrigan

I admit to being a September 11 dropout. I am guilty of avoiding during the past week the constant cacophony of patriotic stories and symbolism surrounding the anniversary of 9-11. The one exception was taking the time to enjoy a wonderful story aired on PBS of Canadians in the Atlantic Provinces opening their hearts and homes to the thousands of Americans air passengers whose planes were rerouted. Passengers were stranded for days across the border. The story was fascinating on many levels. First, the the national and international air traffic control system efficiently cleared American air space and Canada absorbed the overflow. Second, the visceral story of American citizens suspended in space—told that America was under attack but knowing nothing of the particulars—was gut wrenching. Third, the shock and anguish on the faces of those same passengers as they watched together for the first time the murder of the passengers on the hijacked flights and the targets in the "Twin Towers" of the World Trade Center brought me to tears. Finally, the juxtaposition of the display of humanity by our Canadians neighbors matched that of the citizens and public servants of New York City.

The uplifting story of unselfish humanity is too often lost in the talk of terror and war. Instead of embracing this humanity, America's political and cultural leaders have taken America down the path of false bravado and revenge. The opportunity to repair the hole in our souls has been given up in order to put salt in the wounds of our enemy. America's senses are overloaded. Despite the strong sense of community engendered by September 11, Americans continue to search for private solutions to making a life and a living. Excess is everywhere. The media are sucking on the teats of September 11 and it appears that the gluttonous children will never be weaned. The rest of the world hungers for peace while our politicians continuously beat the drum of war. We work in offices, barricaded by security in name only. Corporate America has fleeced our retirement accounts. Job security is a joke. Politicians have raided America's treasury. The mountain of personal debt, made temporarily more bearable by historically low interest rates, nonetheless looms over American families, ready to loose an avalanche.

Even apolitical Americans are beginning to wonder if all of the talk of war will sweep their middle and high school sons into the Persian Gulf before too long. All the patriotic talk and flag waving cannot take away the feeling that our lives are out of our control. Middle class Americans are more anxiety ridden than Woody Allen during a debate about love and death. The stress on the working poor is exacerbated by the stress of the society as a whole.

Clinton could feel our pain. Bush feels only our need for revenge. Bush is destroying America in the name of honoring its dead. Why not honor the dead by educating their children, providing housing and health care for their parents, and caring for each other? Why not open our hearts? Let's spend the billions earmarked for the destruction of Iraq on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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