Saturday, September 11, 2010

To My Children on 9-11

Today is the ninth anniversary oldest son's 18th birthday. As we were preparing to celebrate this milestone, multiple attacks stunned our nation and forever changed how we see September 11. There are so many images and words filling the media spaces that I wondered what I could add to the mix.

I dedicate this essay to my oldest son Michael, for whom 9-11 will always cast a shadow over his birthday. I dedicate this work as well to my other two adult children, Charlotte and Christopher, who, together with Michael, make my wife Kathleen and myself the proudest parents on earth. This essay is my letter to the emerging generation of adults who will need to redeem the messes that my generation have bequeathed to them.

My dear children,

On this auspicious day I want to thank you for bringing so much joy to your Mother and myself and offering so much good to a troubled world. All of you have authentic faith, passionate hope and a deep love for God and people. Your community service inspires us and many others.

I am sorry that our generation could not figure out how to avoid unnecessary wars and offer help to the poor compassionately and effectively. The proof of this is the debt we leave for you to manage. Please forgive us for not balancing our checkbook. Our idealism and avoidance of pain have placed you in shark-infested economic waters.

The attacks we remember on this day were not America's fault. There are millions of militant Muslims who believe in jihad in order to bring the entire world under an Islamic caliphate. If these attacks had occurred in Europe eighty years ago, there might have been some justification, given the colonialism that placed the former Ottoman Empire in the hands of England and France. But "9-11" was neither a right-wing conspiracy nor a legitimate defense of national or religious interests. It was terrorism of the worst kind, carried out by evil men.

You will have to navigate a tightrope between living with the liberties of a pluralistic society and exercising vigilance toward Islamicist leaders. Yes, your Muslim neighbor is most likely friendly, peaceable and a natural ally as you battle the hedonism and narcissism of a culture with theistic amnesia. At the same time, be aware of the difference between enjoying religious freedom (the genius of our First Amendment) and the increasing demands of some radicals for public accommodation of the specific religious practices.

It is my fervent prayer that you will get to see greater peace in the Middle East. But this will only come when Arab leaders stop their dissimulation and unequivocally acknowledge Israel's right to exist with secure borders and diplomatic and economic cooperation with a new Palestinian state.

Please keep the memory of the Holocaust alive as you learn and teach history, make movies and shape public culture. The events of 1933-1945, especially the systematic murder of millions, must not be normalized, placed in a category with other events, or allowed to fade into the mists of memory. The Shoah is proof that the most educated, scientific and "cultured" nations can lose all moral restraint when they abandon Judeo-Christian beliefs and morality and replace it with pseudo-scientific ideologies of Left or Right.

OK - there are some bright spots in all this darkness!

You will have access to global knowledge and, therefore, the opportunity to forge friendships and partnerships that cross all cultural lines. You will continue to befriend, marry and do business with people that your grandparents would never have met.

You will find cures for many cancers and (we pray) for AIDS. You will offer a healthier life for everyone willing to align their lives with sound habits. Your work ethic and common sense are much greater than ours, so I am confident that future budgets will be better and, if we do not self-destruct soon, we will see an improving economy.

You are a generation committed to justice and compassion and you will find new ways to help the needy and poor move from surviving to thriving.

Dear ones, this is not my last testament. My best days are ahead and I want to work with you to bring glory to God and good to others. Let's displace
  • Fear with faith
  • Hatred with love and mutual respect
  • Materialism with generosity
  • Hedonism with service
  • Narcissism with care for our neighbor
  • Daydreaming with vision
  • Propaganda with authentic, clear speech
  • Image with integrity
  • "Politically-correct" cliches with careful reasoning
  • Cowardice with courage
Together we can make a difference beginning today.

I love you, my children and thank you for walking onto the future with me.

Dad, Daddy, The Dad-Person, Father, Pater Familias or the Dadster

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