Sunday, September 9, 2012


I know some of you will cynically see me as a “great” Monday morning quarterback.  And that is okay.  I think, when it comes to such devastation as September 11, 2001, it’s required that each of us be good Monday morning quarterbacks.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, many people woke up having no clue that they were going to die.  Some would die just by being at work.  Some would die carrying out their day-to-day commitment to keep New York safe both as paid pesonnel and as volunteers.  Some would die from deciding to board airplanes bound for points west.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, many people woke up having no clue that they would have an opportunity to step up to the plate in ways they never imagined, some of whom have gone relatively unacknowledged, for example, the many ferry boat operators in Manhattan.

This blog is to honor all of these folks, living and dead.  I think it is important that we do not allow their sacrifices and their memories to become just that, sacrifices and memories, but rather to let their sacrifices and memories become seeds that will blossom into new awarenesses for us as a nation.

Unfortunately, I am sure September 11, will not be the last terrorists’ attack on our country, but perhaps we can learn from September 11, how to respond in the future and how not to respond.  We could do that work, that learning, in their honor.  And if we do that work, maybe, September 11, can be the last terrorist attack on our soil.

I am not a security expert, so I don’t know how to begin to even examine what happened security-wise that hijackers were allowed to board the planes.  I am assuming and hoping that we have learned from September 11, and have remedied the cracks and the holes to prevent such a well-planned multiple simultaneous hijacking in the future.

However, I think it is important that every single person responsible for security on that morning find a way to be both accountable and responsible for where ever it was that they dropped the ball.  When I say this, I am not looking for people to blame.  Blame is pointless and useless.  I am inviting all involved to be accountable and responsible in contrast to being defensive and finding excuses, even at this late stage of the “game.”

I am also inviting each of us, as citizens, to join the security folks in being accountable and responsible.  How?  Well, simply by acknowledging “obviously something went amiss” as a starter.  It was not an accident.  And each of us can share in being accountable and taking responsibility for that break-down by not complaining anymore when we are inconvenienced at the airport by those doing their job.

If we can’t get beyond excusing ourselves for security lapses or covering them up, we will revisit September 11, at a later date.  

What made us vulnerable to such a terrorist attack?  What made us so attractive to the terrorists?  I want to look at just one piece of this question.

We are all familiar with the Narcissist, the man or woman who is powerful, very powerful, and often wealthy.  They acquire and have any and everything they desire.  No one ever stands in their way, and they flaunt that no one WILL EVER stand in their way.

Many of us know these folks first hand.  We work for them, have married them, maybe more than one, live next door to them, have a family member or many family members who qualify for this ancient label, NARCISSIST.  But if not, then we know them from literature (novels and plays), from movies, from sports and the performing arts.

Most of us think of the narcissist as someone who is full of themselves.  The reality is that the narcissist is almost totally EMPTY on the inside.  There is no place inside where the narcissist can go and hang his or her hat, so to speak.  There is no internal felt sense of self.  Let me explain what it feels like to be a narcissist.

See, I happen to believe in an hereafter, but on occasion, I do question.  What if when I die, it IS just poof.  It’s over.  I’m over.  When I consider that possibility, I get a nervous feeling in my stomach, and it tends to crawl throughout my skin.  It’s almost a feeling of nausea.

Well, the narcissist carries that pervasive fear of annihilation twenty four seven.  It tends to be out of conscious awareness, so it is a low grade anxiety that drives the narcissist to find a way to know that he or she exists each and every single moment of his waking day.  And that’s where you and I come in.  Those of us who are in relationships with narcissist, those of us who look up to the narcissist or who find themselves subservient to the narcissist, we all act as mirrors for the narcissist.

When the world or the people in the narcissist’s life refuse to be mirrors, it typically enrages the narcissist, and the rage can become self destructive but more often, other destructive.  Revenge and getting more than even become a necessity for the narcissist to know that he or she exists.  Consequently, the narcissist lives under a pervasive almost unconscious fear of being attacked, and any form of criticism is an attack.  Any mistake made by those who are suppose to mirror perfectly how perfect the narcissist is, is an attack.

So why am I taking the time to look at this personality disorder, narcissism.  Perhaps, I’m focusing on the highjackers, who probably would qualify either as narcissistic or folks who, for any number of reasons, felt compelled to follow narcissists, like those who followed the likes of Jim Jones, Adolph Hitler, and yes, Osama Bin Laden.  Narcissists have a perverted charism about themselves.

But I am talking about Narcissism because we as a nation are narcissistic.  We think we are the greatest and most powerful nation in the world and perhaps in the history of the world even though so many facts point to the contrary.  One, for example, is our relatively high infant mortality rate.

We want other nations to believe that we are the most powerful country in the world and directly or indirectly we send a clear message that we are going to do whatever we damned well please no matter what the rest of the world community says.  We are not a humble nation.  We are a proud nation to a fault.

So the question is, why, as a nation, do we experience emptiness in our national soul?  What is that about?  And then why do we pick the likes of groups like al Qaeda to mirror for us that we are powerful?  And why are we so reticent to acknowledge our own evilness, our own quest to conquer the world’s resources for ourselves, for example oil.

Those groups or folks who do not like us, we virtually dare them to stop us or attack us, and guess what, one group has taken up the invitation and will continue to do so until we find a way to be in the world as a powerful nation, but also a humble nation.  We say we are a Godly nation, but our lack of humility decries our Godliness.

The first step for you and me, as individual citizens, in becoming humble is to know history.  For example, do you have any clue why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor?  Start googling and find out.  This is important because we are fighting the same war today in the Middle East, a war over oil!  Little changes.

Unfortunately, when it comes to war, there are realities we do not want to face.  Perhaps the only war we have actually won, gained something from, is the Revolutionary War.  We certainly did not accomplish much by the Civil War.  Our country remains divided today along the same war lines.  We accomplished nothing in World War I except to plant the seeds for Hitler’s rise to power.  During World War II, over six million jews were annihilated.  We obviously did not stop Hitler.  Four hundred six thousand American soldiers killed and almost seven hundred thousand wounded in World War II.  I have no idea what the other countries lost.  These numbers do not look like a victory to me. 

After World War II, the French could not strip Viet Nam of their independence and were literally slaughtered in their attempt at the infamous battle of Dien Bien Phu.  For some reason, we thought we were bigger and more powerful than the French, so we decided to flex our muscles with our former ally, Ho Chi Minh, but to no avail.

And what the heck were we doing in Korea? There were, in fact, “good” reasons that made sense in that time period, but do you know what they were?  And can we learn that these “good” reasons may not be good reasons in the future?  Perhaps we need to rethink the mentality of the Truman doctrine which tends to pervade our thinking even today.

And what was the mentality that drove us into war with Iraq?  We have left that country devastated.  They are worse off today than they were before we went into save them.  Russian could not deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and what made us think that we could?  We walked away from Korea, from Viet Nam, from Iraq, and we will eventually walk away from Afghanistan, all because we have to prove our power.  But there were no victories, and there will be no victory in Afghanistan.  You gotta know that!

And we somehow forget that the greatest war casualties are the survivors and their families.  These men and women who survived are NEVER the same, and their woundedness plagues their families sometimes for generations.  I say that from working with families of World War II veterans and their generational families as well as the veterans and their families from more recent military actions.

Some of us like to take comfort in the notion of necessary evils.  But calling a solution to a problem a necessary evil is just a cover up for not having the courage to say, I don’t know what to do.  Or I know what the good solution is, but it is going to ruffle the feathers of powerful people, people who profit from the necessary evil solutions.
There is a wonderful principle in Martial Arts.  The most powerful power is UNUSED power, unthreatened power.  You might call it silent power.

In honor of all those who lost their lives on 9/11, can we begin to look at our motivation for going after terrorists?  Is there a more powerful way to go after them?  Is there a way of attacking terrorists that does not bate them into attacking us in the most perverse ways?

I think there are answers, but it requires giving up our image that we are number one, that we are the most powerful nation in the world, that we are invincible, but that requires humility.

NO, we do not have to become isolationists.     

I think I am a great person not because I am the greatest person on the face of the earth.  I am great because of the way I live my life.

As a nation, can we look into our national mirror and be at peace with the way we live our lives, with the way we treat each other, with the way we take care of each other, with the way we resolve conflict between each other, or maybe the basic problem is we don’t care how we treat each other or care for each other and we continue to rely upon prowess to resolve conflict even within our own country.  So do we each just live for ourselves?

Looking at this issue of power and shifting into a silent power is where our greatness will come.  The bottom line is we MUST be great about something other than military prowess, because that will never cut it.  It never has in the history of the world, and it never will.  And we must become great in resisting the temptation to acquire everything we want from the less powerful.

For us, September 11 was not about an attack by Islamic militant extremists.  That is what it was about for the terrorists!  Unfortunately for us, it was about our narcissism as a nation, our greed, and our complete lack of humility.


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