Perhaps I am growing cynical. The result of an eternally frustrated optimist, I guess. For what it is worth, here is the off-the-cuff reaction I wrote on Stephen's blog (instead of working on my grading and lecture preparation).
In the most general sense, things have not really changed. Our worst characteristics have perhaps become more fully exemplified (fear, discrimination, a failure to understand difference but a tendency to stereotype, hypocrisy, etc.). As you state, “our churches were suddenly full”, but sadly, the preaching was too often of retaliation, rather than forgiveness. I was having great difficulty with all the memorializing over the past week. For what purpose? To fuel the anger and hatred? To sharpen the state of fear? To honor the fallen from that day? What about all those who have died fighting (sometimes in a country not at all involved in the attacks) or at the hands of our military (perhaps in retaliation)?
One of my favorite stories that appeared over the past week was surprisingly enough from CNN: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/10/remembering-911-an-unexpected-gift-to-america/. The story of the Maasai gift says much about the sense of compassion that remains amongst some cultures. Have we been as thoughtful in their times of drought, and now, the pipeline explosion? Or are we still so self-focused that empathy escapes us?
In 2010, Pakistan suffered extreme flooding – the worse in 80 years. A death toll near 1000, 20 million people affected. Did we pay much attention? Not really. After all, it is an Islamic country and we have sadly lumped all of “those types” together and associated them with 9/11. After all, bin Laden was found there. (Please know that I am being sarcastic here – just to be clear.) I still lament the loss of human life and know that even the poor and even the evil, have someone who loves them and is grieving over the loss.
Meteorologists have linked the unusually heavy monsoon flooding in Pakistan to the hottest summer on record and massive fires in Russia in 2010. Something called an abnormal Rossby wave. I have no idea what that is, but I am sure that our climate change deniers in Texas (on fire literally and figuratively this year) and in the flooded northeast/mid-Atlantic region would never succumb to the idea that maybe we should pay attention to the climate models. Or at least the idea that Mother Nature can get pretty cranky sometimes and perhaps we should treat her planet and her people a bit nicer.
So we lick our wounds from the heat waves, and fires, and floods, and hold memorial services “to remember”, but we don’t ask what needs to be altered in our lives, our lifestyles. We go on. After all, we are survivors. Nothing changes.