Wrongly taking advantage of a good thing

Beth is a copious journal keeper, and I’ve been transcribing some of her old journals, and our letters, for the purpose of telling her story in a fuller way. I came upon this selection this morning, from an undated journal entry some time soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:

I believed that the attack was bigger than all of us and that everyone should help and work against this enemy. War was at hand and everyone was being called. America was changed and so were we all with it. [I was trying, unsuccessfully to communicate what I was thinking, and] I was shocked that these ideas hadn’t been thoroughly assimilated by everyone.

[My friend] Beverly said, “I’m staying right here and taking care of my babies. I’ll let “them” fight the war. (My thought was that those “them” were supposed to be us. They attacked our back yard! They’re at our door!) I thought to myself that there are a lot of people going to go to bed at night and get up the next morning while going about their lives as if the outside world would continue without them. To me the outside world had become all of our world. That there wasn’t an outside world any more.

I tried to explain that “they’re here!” If we don’t work or fight that there won’t be any “everyday life” again for our children. I’d seen it so drastically in my heart that to explain it in words was like showing them a picture, i.e., pretend you got up one morning and kissed your spouse goodbye in the morning, expecting to see them later for evening dinner and for all the family’s night time routines. But the spouse doesn’t come back! It’s permanent! There won’t be dinner and night time routine again. See, that’s how I saw America change. All of our routines will be changed from now on. Now we have to do all we can to keep what we can and to make America back again for our children and our children’s children, and so on …

Susie said, “That’s what you’re going to do to your family. You have children, you’re too old! Let ‘them’ handle it.” It was even worse from [Susie’s husband]. I used that thought to try and show them that without America there won’t be any families at all the way it could go. We are the “them” that needs to roll up our sleeves to make the “dinner and evening routines” without the returning spouse. But not literally. I’m not planning to go if they only want Soldiers for the Middle East. My thought is that “they’re” going to need people for all kinds of jobs and duties.

I was not among those who, at the time, thought “9/11 changes everything.” And Beth obviously was. In retrospect, we can look back and see that certainly it was a wake-up call, that we needed to be more vigilant for terrorism in our midst, but no, it had not “changed everything.” Except that it prompted over-reactions like this one.

But still, even here, we see a wink and a nod from Beth, that “I want to help, but not so much that I’m going to go all the way into the Middle East.” Yet that’s exactly where the chain of events in the next months prompted her to go.

I don’t want to say that Beth’s sentiment was a bad one. But those who were in a genuine position to know what the outside threats were, and who relied on such sentiments as hers in order to push for more aggressive responses than were necessary, have done us a great deal of harm.