I’m an activist, so after the cowardly attacks on 9/11, I got to work immediately to try to undo some of the damage done to our country. My son-in-law, Ted Hennessy, Jr. had been killed that day, and while I doubt that I would have been as passionately involved had that not been the case, perhaps I would have been. I do know that had I not suffered that personal loss I would not have become a member of, or received the invaluable support of, my many dear friends in Peaceful Tomorrows.
After 9/11, I immediately put our house on the market so that we could move to the Boston area to lend help and emotional support to our daughter and her two children. During that time, I joined with our local Episcopal priest in to create the Center for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Understanding in Irvington, New York. In the spring of 2002, after we had moved to Massachusetts, I formed the Alliance for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Understanding in Lexington.
The Interfaith Candlelight Peace Vigils of 2003 and 2004 were collaborative efforts lead by the Alliance for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Understanding and the Peace and Justice Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, and were supported by people of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths. At the time, 9/11 was still fresh in everyone’s memory and people of all faiths (as well as people with no religious affiliation) were trying to undo the damage done by that event to the amity among nations and religions. Perhaps five hundred people attended the first event, which was publicized by an article in the Boston Globe the day before and was covered by three TV stations. We also were interviewed on WBUR-FM and other local radio stations.
We were hopeful that something of value could be salvaged from the ashes, and to a degree, I think we succeeded. This country was at the time still strong in its defense of freedom of religion and, though there were some bad incidents of religious bigotry (a Sikh, wearing a turban was murdered by someone who thought he was a Muslim), there were other very encouraging signs of solidarity: after a mosque had been vandalized, Christians, Jews and Muslims formed a cordon around the mosque to prevent further vandalizing. It was a heady and hopeful time, and I think we did some good.
As 9/11 becomes a more distant memory and as our government has used it as a pretext for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the brutal treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, my wife and I have become discouraged, but we still hope against hope that America will recover from this fever, as we recovered from slavery and the McCarthy era. However, we will never forgive George W. Bush for standing on the ashes of our son-in-law and those of the thousands of other victims who died that day and braying into a megaphone, nor for all the crimes against humanity perpetrated by our government in their names.
Recently, my faith in our society and government has been badly shaken. Hatred of Muslims is on the rise, along with the ascendency of bigotry. The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are “people” and as such may contribute as much money as they wish to candidates who support their interests. Our citizens don’t seem to appreciate the protections our Constitution affords and seem ready, in fact eager, to redefine freedom of religion to exclude all but Christianity and Judaism. Thirty thousand Americans a year are killed by firearms sold by greedy manufacturers whose cause is supported by a paranoid citizenry. Stem cell research was ruled unconstitutional by a judge, setting back vital research that only America has the funds to pursue.
I’m not ready to give up my citizenship, but neither do I sustain my belief that America is positioned to lead the world in science, education or democracy. My faith in America is further compromised by the administration’s continued pursuit of a destructive and futile foreign policy.
We live in one world. I consider myself a citizen of the world and hope to educate by example my grandchildren to that point of view.