I am an eternal optimist at heart. I am a firm believer in the idea that the human race as a whole is striving to create a world that is a better place. And for the most part, I think that is being achieved – albeit at a pace that is far slower than most of us are satisfied with. 9/11 made me question the path we are traveling towards this prosperity.
In many ways, I think the United States represents the best in humanity. The Emma Lazarus inscription on the Statue of Liberty nicely summarizes the American Dream:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
And breathe freely they did. This melting pot turned into the greatest superpower the world has ever seen in less than 200 years. A remarkable feat by any measure. The USA created a nation by the people and for people. And this representative republic nurtured a capitalist system that has generated unmatched results and prosperity.
For most of us who grow up in this country there is a feeling of near invincibility. The American Dream resonates in all of us. If you work hard you can achieve almost anything here. And most importantly, our government creates an environment that nurtures this freedom of expression and freedom to reach for any goal you so desire.
But when those planes knocked down the tallest buildings in the United States, I began to question parts of this story. It was the first time I ever began to wonder about the American Dream. After all, if you’re not safe in your own backyard, where are you safe? When we are young we are told that America is the place where we “crown thy good with brotherhood – From sea to shining sea!” But how could we be on the wrong end of such a vicious attack when we are supposedly this place that nurtures freedom, liberty and brotherhood? For the first time in my life I began to question the American Dream, the ideals we project on much of the world and the policy approach we impose on our global neighbors. It was a profoundly unsettling feeling – what if the ideals that are building the future of this nation are wrong?
9/11 inserted a great deal of uncertainty in the minds of the world. It exposed a world that has much bigger problems than most are willing to admit. And it represented a world that is dissatisfied with the policies of the world’s most powerful country. I think the last 10 years have borne all of this out as we seem to be living in a world of backwards policy and persistent turmoil. In this regard, 9/11 represents another hurdle for the USA and the world to overcome. And I am confident that human kind will overcome this hurdle. The global turmoil we continue to experience is proof that there is much work to be done. But before we can overcome these hurdles we need to better understand the world in which we live and the problems that the world is experiencing. In doing so, we will learn to work together towards some semblance of global prosperity. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the policy response is helping to get us there any faster than it could.
In the end, I am certain that optimism will overcome this period of fear and uncertainty. Good policy will overcome bad policy. And we will prosper. But the road to prosperity is proving to be an arduous one.