Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the World Trade Center Attacks. Taken seriously, I believe that if there’s a single day in modern history that defines the chapter of my generation, it’s ‘9/11’. Of course, this is most apparent to those of us who like to think of ourselves as politically conscious. What’s more true, however, is that everyone has been affected by 9/11; whether we’re aware of it or not, history binds us all, indefinitely.

In 2014, neither the U.S nor the world is any less safer through the ‘war on terror’ declared from American soil on September 11, 2001. In fact, not only is the U.S still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention Pakistan, Yemen, and–in a matter of days–Syria and more), but it is also still mired in a spiritual and political crisis from within, as war abroad is intrinsic with war on a domestic level. Simply put: as long as unchecked privilege, prejudice, and ignorance continue to inform the decisions made within our governments, and within our schools and universities, and within the work environments that we’re a part of, we will continue to lose our way from the common humanity that brought us together on that tragic morning.

Rather than just commemorating 9/11 for the sake of feigning patriotism, then, we should lend our attention to what is still lacking in our policies toward one another and the world. In doing so, we will not just relieve ourselves from working against one another, but we will strengthen our way of working with one another. This, I believe, is the only true way to honor each life lost since that day, and each life which is still being lost to war, bigotry, and the countless other brutalities we inflict on one another in deference of civilization.

We can do it. If we are honest enough with ourselves about how far we’ve come and how far we’ve still got to go as a nation and global community, we can still be more civilized, righteous, and whole. Of course, it’s not just difficult to take a critical look at ourselves and one another, it can be one of the most difficult things of all.

But if on the morning of 9/11/2001 there were enough heroes who gave their lives to help their fellow men and women in need, surely there are still enough of them left to take a moment for others today, none of whom are tougher, nor smarter, nor better in any way than those before them, but whom are all simply just as human.

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