There is a website that features touching, dramatic, funny, and inspirational photos submitted by people around the world proclaiming that "We're Not Afraid." The creator of the Web site was featured on GMA last year and spoke about its purpose. I agreed with everything he said except for one thing.
He said that we need to go on with our lives and not change anything we do because of terrorists. I agree that we should keep going to work, visiting family and friends, taking vacations, going on dates ... Of course, we should continue with the simple pleasures of our every day lives.
But there are also some things we need to change. Our government needs to change a lot of its domestic and foreign policy because there are many cases where America is just plain wrong. Examples include:
US-Sponsored Plan Colombia
Failing Foreign Aid Programs
Environmental Double Standards
U.S. Support of Repressive Dictatorships
(But I thought Bush wanted to stop all the "Saddams" of the world?!?!?!?! I guess he only wants to stop the ones who control oil-producing nations.)
If any or all of these topics are unfamiliar, then one should start with David's Wallechinksy's article "Why Do They Hate Us?" He sums it up pretty well and it doesn't even take 10 minutes to learn about what you didn't know.
What can individuals change about themselves in the wake of these terrorist attacks, whether they are here, London, the Middle East or elsewhere? We need to change our wasteful consumption of every resource. Buy a fuel efficient car. Combine trips to save gasoline. Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth. Turn off the lights in rooms you are not using. Read more about issues that DON'T affect you directly, like conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone.
And that is why "they" hate us. Many of the big and little things we do for ourselves (whether they are government operations or personal choices) have direct and indirect negative impacts on the people of many other nations. We don't think enough about others to even wonder if what we are doing will hurt anyone else. And we don't even realize what we AREN'T doing. Ignorance is truly bliss.
Following September 11th, President Bush told us to keep driving, shopping and spending money. What he didn't tell you is that the longer we continue to waste gasoline, the longer it will take our troops to come home. And that's just the real deal. Don't believe me? Read a little and keep up with the facts. And I don't mean to get your news from People Magazine, USA Today, or rely solely on 30-second news segments on FOX or CNN.
Pick up the Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, or Newsweek. Try sitting through some programs led by some of our top opinion leaders, such as Wolf Blitzer, Bob Schieffer, Bill Maher, and even Bill O'Reilly. As much as I dislike O'Reilly, listening to all sides can help create your own opinion. Try reading some books that vary in topics, such as Al Franklin's "Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" OR Tammy Bruce's "The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture & Values." Then, THINK for yourself. There are two sides to every story and the truth is often somewhere in the middle.
And if you just want some damn funny reading. Check out "The Daily Show With John Stewart Presents America the Book: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction." The problem is that most Americans would rather watch "The Fabulous Life of Paris Hilton" or catch up on reruns of "Fear Factor." Sure, those shows are fun and I enjoy them, but I try not to let myself become a celebrity or reality TV junkie (Give me a "Friends" marathon though and you might not see me all day!). Spread out your interests and you'll become a more interesting person.
Some say that if we change our lives, the terrorists win. No. Paraphrasing Bill Maher in his book "When You Ride Alone, You Ride With Bin Laden," when you don't change your habits of wasteful consumption and choose to remain ignorant of the issues that face others, the terrorists win. I am inclined to agree.