MARCANO: The last time we were united

Credit: Evan Vucci

Credit: Evan Vucci

When I think of 9-11, I think of unity.

Yes, I think about the shock of a terrorist attack on our soil. But I also remember that in the aftermath, America was as united as it had been in years.

Some 72% of people said they liked the country’s direction and essentially put aside partisan bickering. We praised Rudi Giuliani as America’s Mayor and George W. Bush for his calm, resolute and determined demeanor. After the attack, Bush had the highest presidential approval rating ever, at 92%.

That cooperation and togetherness didn’t last long because of the upcoming 2012 midterms. While work crews pulled rubble from the Trade Center site in lower Manhattan; while we mourned the heroes who futilely ran into the burning towers to try to save just one life; and while the city that never sleeps began to, literally, rise from the ashes that still at times flickered in the air, lawmakers shattered the rules of decorum by going on the attack while the country still wailed in grief.

Today, we’ll see lots of 9-11 retrospectives with the horrible shots of the planes exploding into the towers, the final radio calls of firefighters before they died, and bloodied, disoriented survivors walking through the dust in lower Manhattan.

Why were Americans, if even for a short time, united?

We were under attack, on our soil. People who tried to protect us died. Children lost parents. The enormity of the tragedy was so great, people decided they had to do something and figured out the one thing they could do cost little.

They could be kind.

And they were. Strangers hugged strangers who wept as they placed missing posters of loved ones of telephone poles in lower Manhattan. People with no tools went to ground zero and helped pull stones from the crumbled pile in hopes of finding someone alive. Men, women and children of all colors and ideologies stopped cops and firefighters to say thank you.

We’ve talked about how united we were then. We should also discuss how far we’ve fallen.

Today, we believe people who don’t hold our values or think like us — those of the other party — are immoral, dishonest, unintelligent, and close-minded, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. Those feelings have substantially increased since 2016, the same poll showed.

Today, way too many of us will watch the various September 11 coverage, note the tragedy, then go back to division. We’ll use our partisanship like boxing gloves and seek to pummel our opponents into submission.

It is time to at least make an effort to stop. We won’t ever be as united as we were during that short time under Bush — there are too many parts of society that profit from division and have little interest in outward unity, despite what they proclaim.

But on the local level, there are things we can do.

Groups throughout the Dayton region often hold unity events, some spiritual, some community-related. In the past, the Peace Bridge, the Neighborhood Leadership Institute, and the event “Dayton Undivided” brought people together. Area churches, civic organizations, and clubs provide opportunities to talk to people who are not like you.

We can make a difference, even if it’s a small one, by getting out of our comfort zones and making a real effort to engage with everyone, not just those who echo our views. That’s how we start reclaiming a little unity.

It shouldn’t take a national tragedy to bring or keep us together.

Ray Marcano’s column appears on these pages every Sunday. You can send him a question or comment to raymarcanoddn@gmail.com.

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