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Sep 11 2015

Reflections of 9-11: A Journey From Hate to Hope

911-memorial-reflection

image source: http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2011/911-reflection/ (modified by RO)

By: Adam Bates
M4L Guest Contributor
September 11, 2015

“Never Forget, Never Again.”

14 years ago I was sitting in my classroom in Oklahoma watching the coverage. We had been told (in typical public school fashion) that a plane had crashed in NYC, but that we were to continue classes and not turn on the TVs. My science teacher ignored the command, and rigged a TV antenna out of a paper clip and a hanger so we could watch.

When it became clear what had happened, I immediately hated these people, the rest of the followers of the heathen religion they claimed, and whatever part of the world spawned them. I wished sincerely for a meteor to hit those animals out celebrating in the streets. Those dead Americans could have been my family, my friends. They were my countrymen, and that was damn near the same thing. Watching George W. Bush straddle the rubble and declare a jihad of his own filled me with so much pride and adrenaline I think I cried.

I maintained that hate for the next several years, knowing in my heart and soul that my country was hated and attacked for standing up for freedom. I cheered the passage of the PATRIOT Act and called dissenters traitors, whiny liberals, and terrorist sympathizers. I supported Gitmo. I insisted that waterboarding wasn’t torture and that, even if it was, it was acceptable in the name of national security (I suspect there’s still evidence of this online if you look hard enough, and I know, shamefully, that there are people reading this who can vouch for it).
I watched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as if they were the coolest things in the world. I spent summer 2002 at the Naval Academy (only a recruiting visit to Miami eventually convinced me I didn’t want to go to Annapolis), planned to become a Marine, and decided I wanted to study Arabic to help Uncle Sam destroy our enemies.
Then I left Oklahoma for college in Miami. Through my Arabic and regional studies classes I met Muslims for the first time in my life (many of whom I remain friends with today), and it got harder and harder for my preconceptions to hold. I kept waiting for their innate hatred of me as an American and of freedom generally to reveal itself. Still waiting. I needed only the slightest modicum of proof to confirm once and for all that al-Qaeda wasn’t “radical,” just Muslim. Still waiting for that too.

I took a class on national security taught by a 28 year veteran of CIA operations, expecting it to reconfirm what I thought I knew. I explained my thoughts to the professor after the first class (suck up). After the second, he handed me a copy of Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars,” on the history of the U.S. in Afghanistan, and told me to read it. I did. Then I started reading about U.S. history in Iran. Iraq. Somalia. Lebanon. Palestine. Egypt.

Everything I knew about the world, about American exceptionalism, about our government’s innocence, about the righteousness of my indignation, was bullshit. Everything on which I had built my identity as an American was a lie.

So I started over, with the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and an open mind. A few months later a guy named Ron Paul participated in a debate on Miami’s campus, and the rest is history.
So, if you’ve stuck it out this far, I’d like to mark this anniversary with this, in the tone and vocabulary of my 16 year old self: fuck you, bin Laden, for what you did to those people and thousands of others around the world, and for the monster you brought out of me. Fuck you, U.S. government, for exploiting my ignorance in order to justify the most supreme evil around the world. And lastly, fuck me for all those awful things I advocated, and the even more awful things I thought in my ignorance.

I wasted ~6 years of my life in a haze of warmongering, collectivism, nationalism, and bigotry. Diseases one and all. If not for the coincidences detailed above, I may have never snapped out of it at all. I am forever grateful for those who (many of them unknowingly) proved me so utterly wrong.
To anyone whose religion, ethnicity, nationality, or loyalty I insulted or questioned (out loud or in my own mind) during that time, I am eternally ashamed and in your debt.

Never forget, never again, indeed.


Adam Bates received his BA in Political Science from the University of Miami (FL), where he was also a member of the Hurricanes football team. He received his JD and his MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan. He is a policy analyst in Washington, D.C. and a member of the Oklahoma bar

1 comment

  1. Phil

    So, Adam, I am curious. Have you embraced Islam as your own faith? Was your complete turn-around based on any research into Islamic law and holy writ, or just based on getting to know some really nice and friendly Muslims?

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