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Essay: 9/11 Brought Us Together, but Was It Unity?

  • Date Submitted: 09/06/2011 06:23 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 57.4 
  • Words: 1291
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WASHINGTON (AP) — We were one. Or so it seemed — for a while, at least.
"America is united," President George W. Bush proclaimed a decade ago after the horror that terrorists wrought. And it felt that way.
Not Republicans. Not Democrats. Just Americans clinging to one another as we coped with the attacks on our freedom, on our security, on our way of life. We mourned together, raged together, resolved together.
But it wasn't long before the perception of a united America gave way to the reality of division. Political polarization became the norm. And partisanship, gridlock and a loss of faith in institutions returned in force.
As diverse as it is, is this country capable of being truly united? And if we were, would that really be a good thing?
Americans come together spontaneously or, perhaps, instinctively at times of tragedy and trauma. We always seem to be on the same page when it comes to our core principles. We want America to be free. We want America to be secure. And when those tenets are violated, watch out.
Consider the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and WWII, perhaps the last time the nation was — or, rather, felt — truly unified. That is, until 60 years later when war came to America again. In the days after Sept. 11, 2001, there was almost unanimous support for going after al-Qaida, an anomaly for an American public that usually agrees on little.
We wanted to win, to make the bad guys lose. At the end of the day, al-Qaida was not targeting Republicans or Democrats. It was killing Americans. And Americans on the whole wanted to fight back.
But was that unity? Or was that simply a hunger, a yearning for it in a nation whose motto for nearly two centuries was the Latin "e pluribus unum" — "Out of many, one"?
Whatever the answer, it was rare — and fleeting. Ten years later, our politics are a lot like they were before 9/11. And, perhaps, worse. Americans, and the leaders we elect, struggle to find common ground, if they're trying at all....

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