Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 Special


It's an anniversary day. Six years ago I parked my motorcycle at Troutdale Airport preparing to begin a routine work day. A man from another company at the airport whom I'd never met approached from his car in the next parking lot. "Have you had the TV on this morning?" he asked. "No," I replied. "I always read the paper." "Might want to do that," he advised. "World Trade Center's been attacked. We're at war."

Inside, a couple of early arrivals had the radio on. Both towers in flames. The first one collapsed. A few minutes later, the second. What did this mean? Work started at 7:30 AM, PDT. Workers slowly went about their tasks. About 9 AM as I walked through the shop I noticed it. They all looked "dazed and confused." It only took me a few minutes to decide and I immediately cleared it with the General Manager. I went around to each employee. "At 10 o'clock break I'll have a prayer time in my office. Everyone is welcome." I didn't know if anybody would show up. Turns out the whole company did, even front office staff. Phones weren't ringing much anyway. We met for prayer and sharing of concerns for the next seven work days. It was the right thing to do.

But how to feel about all of it? Confused and conflicted seemed to be pretty standard. Over the next weeks and months "Proud To Be An American" signs and bumper stickers sprouted everywhere. The phrase never quite did it for me. If "pride goeth before a fall", should pride be what I felt? If pride wasn't it, what did I feel, what should I feel? It took six months to sort it out, but it was something deeper than pride. As a veteran and loyal citizen I felt something way deeper than pride.

Deeper Than Pride
More than mountains, oceans, rivers, the rain.
More than cities and highways, quiet plains.
More than the red, the white, the blue that is dyed
onto the banner that waves like the grain...
More than anthems played by marching bands,
or star spangled chords of memorial choirs
More than the skirl of the lone piper's drone
More than I feel when the flowers are dried--
those tears yet unshed for all who have died
Far more than we could ever ask of each other
yet what we unexpectedly do every day,
It's a feeling way deeper than pride.
America, good land of brave and the free
Conceived an ideal for the world--our Miss Liberty
bearing her torch night and day just off the Manhattan shore
Welcoming peoples and tongues, hopes, dreams and more,
families praying their children will know nevermore
the fears they have sought to finally flee.
It's more than we attain, achieve, or even claim to be,
ideal far higher than we dare strive!
It is a feeling way deeper than pride.
Freedom is won solely by laying it down, setting it free
by citizens, soldiers, teachers, parents-to-be,
Rescuers giving freely on our behalf the ultimate prize
of life...
God bless these things in us, O set them joyously free!
Rebuild in us compassion, a lust for justice, hunger for liberty,
Rebuild, rebuild!
Rebuild! Yes, rebuild, rebuild, rebuild!
"Rebuild and rebuild and rebuild," I cried,
rebuild in us that feeling
of a nation way deeper than pride!"
Have a blessed day of rebuilding,
Pastor Roger


jon said...

"Rebuild in us compassion, a lust for justice, hunger for liberty,

Well put. Thanks for your thoughts Roger.

Pastor Roger said...

Thanks, Jon. I had the honor of reading Deeper Than Pride for the annual Legion of Valor memorial service in August 2002. Gen. Barry McCaffrey personally thanked me and urged me to publish it. Mabye now I have in a way. The words don't come lightly. I think daily about our country's response to 9/11. Mostly, I think it has been a reaction rather than a response. The entire war in Iraq has been a knee-jerk reaction. Yesterday Gen. Petraeus was asked if Iraq and Saddam Hussein had any connection to 9/11. "None that I'm aware of," he replied. President Bush himself stated this clearly over a year ago. Yet in a poll taken just last week, 40% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats thought Saddam Hussein had a part in the 9/11 attacks. With such a poor understanding, how can we possibly hope to respond in an apprpriate way? I do hope that one day soon we citizens again feel a true lust for justice and hunger for liberty. To me it feels like we as a nation are sleepwalking through a terribly important time in history. R.

jon said...

Do you watch the primaries closely at all? Do you have a favorite candidate?

I think verse like Deeper Than Pride is a good step to knock someone out of sleepwalking.

Pastor Roger said...

Jon, Thanks. Sometimes we need to hear things a different way in order to "hear" them.
Do I follow the primaries? Since we're still in pre-primary season, you're probably wondering if I have followed any debates. Not yet. Much too early.
But the bigger question is whether I follow current events which involve politics. Absolutely! Having had the Vietnam War oocupy a 16-year wide swath of my life from 7th grade through the age of 28, I couldn't do otherwise. Politics invovles war, life/death choices and the welfare of your kids, friends and neighbors. We have to pay attention. It's not only our right but our duty to do so.
Having said that, I'll add that Im' gravely concerned for the future of our country. Our political system is failing us miserably because we have let it become completely submerged in money. The obscene amounts of money that it takes to campaign assure that substantive solutions to problems and real leadership choices will not be the deciding factors in whom we nominate and elect. Now it's all about advertising, and being sold a perception of a candidate. It's about image and trashing the opponent.
The party political conventions are now perfunctory and as dramatic as sitting in front of a blank CRT screen with embalming fluid in your veins.
Within my lifetime there once was drama and mystery in the conventions. The nominees weren't foregone conclusions months ahead of time. And real life actually spilled over into conventions. For example, the question of the Vietnam War, by then already nine years old (at least U.S. direct involvement there) actually spilled over into the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. People cared enough to raise their voices, shout and protest in the streets, causing a police response that actually became police brutality. I can't imagaine that happening today.
Was I in Chicago in '68? No, I was in Austria on a summer study fellowship. I didn't get my first whiff of tear gas until '70 in DC. Had I been in the U.S., I'd have gone to Chicago. Several college buddies did go. Truth matters. And when it ceases to matter, nothing else will.
Do I have a favorite candidate? Not at this point. With two exceptions, they are nearly all old, rich white men who have no idea what it means to run a successful small business or to be poor in this country. On the GOP side, John McCain is probably the only one who is not seriously clueless when it comes to foreign affairs. I'd very much like to know more about Ron Paul and what he sees as the way forward in Iraq. I also know he has no chance of being nominated. Besides, I think it's time we took a 20-year break from nominating anyone from Texas for president.
On the Demo side, I think John Edwards has the best grasp of offering a coherent message to people, but I don't think it will sell well enough. He and Barack Obama both have more heart than other candidates. Hillary Clinton probably has more brain power than most of the other candidates combined, but I think she is probably far too polarizing to be elected and would face major obstacles as president if she were. On the other hand, I also she think has the mental toughness to slog through it if she were to be elected; but she may be a very unpopular president much like the current one.
At any rate, so many primaries are stacked so early this year that we may very well know who the presumptive nominees will be by mid February. Then will come the relentless advertising and campaigning that will have many of us so turned off that by November many will refuse to vote. Not good.
What really baffles me about today is that there seems to be so little public concern, especially among the young. Considering the damage done to our nation's fiscal health and constitutional law in the past six years, I can't for the life of me understand why people under the age of 35 aren't rioting in the streets demanding change.
Forget health insurance coverage. Unless we do something to lasso health care COSTS and roll them back, there is no saving this country and its employment base from bankruptcy.
Serious responses to global warming, climate change, energy independence and sustainability, sustainability of our food supply and infrastructure? We are dead in the water on these issues, and the costs of addressing them will never get cheaper than they are today. So why the lack of concern about the "future damage' we are doing today? Beats me.
And these should be core issues for Christ followers because they are directly related to our calling to care for God's creation and to love our neighbors as ourselves. They aren't just material or economic or lifestyle issues. They are core moral issues. I won't have to live with the consequences of political failure as long as you and your children will, but that dosen't give me a pass. I'll keep on. But where are the younger voices out there today? Where is the church?
We pin too much on our choice of president, though. We've also given him/her way too much power. After all, each of us has THREE representatives in Congress personally accountable to us--if we are willing to hold them accountable--which, unless we wish to relinquish our citizenship, we are obligated to do.

There. You asked what time it was and I told you how to define time and build a digital watch from scratch.