There is a long article today in the LA times about how difficult it is for teachers to “teach” about 911. They just don’t have the information, or the time. After all they are only given half an hour, one day a year to talk about it and they have to cover so many other subjects.
Garbage. It seems to me that when I was in school, every word out of the mouths of my teachers taught me about America. I was taught about pride, about successes, failures, the good and the bad. I proudly said the pledge every day in grammar school, and sang the Star Spangled Banner at every football game, hand on heart, looking at the flag. Funny, even thought my dad was too old to go into the military during WWII, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t serve. I was taught that that was what you do.
I learned about the evils of slavery, about the wonders of the constitution and the sacrifices of the men who wrote it. I learned about strong women, who broke barriers when there were really barriers to be broken. I learned about heroes during war and peace, about men and women who gave their lives for those around them.
I was in my 50s when 911 occurred, and for some reason, I felt an ambivalence about what people did on that day. The first responders, the people who ran to give blood, the people who opened their homes to those who were trapped in cities due to the grounding of airplanes. That was just what Americans did. We do what we have to do because we are Americans.
Americans give more to charity that all the rest of the world combined. When there is a disaster, we are the first to show up, and the last to leave. When we are needed we are there. And then we go home. As one general said when asked what America wanted from France after the end of World War II, he responded “just enough land to bury our dead.”
People who were born before 1945 aren’t confused about 911. We know why it happened. We know we have to be vigilant. We know we had become complacent. We know we missed the signs and we paid a horrible price. We also know we mustn’t pay it again.
We learned about tragedy, and honor, and respect in grammar school and high school. It was so instilled in us that no college professor could shake it out. There was no revisionist history. We understood that some of the things that we, as a country, did weren’t right, but then we also knew we weren’t there and didn’t have to make decisions ‘on the spot.’ We didn’t excuse our excesses, we just accepted them as life and learned from them.
Now our teachers can’t figure out how to teach our kids about 911. That’s like saying you can’t teach about America. And yep, that’s it. Teachers born after 1945 spent their time in college learning that America is not the greatest country on the planet. They focused on the bad and never considered the good. Their professors revise history and spent time “affixing blame,” and removing pride.
911 isn’t about sacrifice, or heroics. It’s about doing what Americans do. Whether they rush into burning buildings, yell “let’s roll”, or set off in an unarmed jet to take down a plane before it can kill thousands, they did it without a second thought. I’m not at all surprised.
911 was a warning. We heeded it and have prevented other attacks. Of that we can be proud. We do what has to be done. If only we could figure out a way to show our teachers how to tell that to students.
Duty, Honor, Country. Maybe a definition of those three words is a place to start.