Twelve years ago, I stood at Watts and West Street, about a mile north of the World Trade Centers, and watched as the roof of the North tower dove over a hundred stories towards the city streets. I stood there helplessly as my neighborhood, school, and apartment building disappeared behind a thick cloud of smoke.
Every year, I quietly hope that I will not have to retell this story, that I will finally feel as though my fellow Americans know the true value of peace and security. But as each name is read off this year in Lower Manhattan, I will not be able to help but think about the 33 who have been slaughtered in Syria for every American who died on 9/11.
With Congress currently deliberating over the use of force against Syria, where over 100,000 innocent civilians have already been killed, Americans are practicing a chilling level of indifference. According to a recent CNN/ORC International poll, seven out of 10 Americans oppose military action of any kind in Syria, believing in is not in our national interest.
Following the record-long, deficit inflating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- for which Americans feel they have nothing to show -- it makes sense that we would be weary of entering another foreign conflict. After all, the whole "we can be the agents of democracy and peace" thing seems all too familiar.
But let's step back for a moment and review our options. We can A) sit back and congratulate ourselves on clearly learning our lesson, and watch as five people continue to be killed every 45 minutes, or B) we can recognize that no option is a good one, but that we have to try something, so long as it is of little risk to Americans.
If you find yourself in the A) category, you are not alone. You feel responsible having acted on the lessons learned from Iraq, and can march in the streets as an elegant spokesperson for peace. But what exactly is your definition of "peace"? How can fighting against intervening in the indiscriminate killing of children ever be considered "peace"?
As Nicholas Kristof asks in the New York Times:
When history looks back on this moment, will it view those who opposed intervening as champions of peace? Or, when the textbooks count the dead children, and the international norms broken with impunity, will our descendants puzzle that we took pride in retreating into passivity during this slaughter?
On September 11, 2001, I learned never to take peace for granted. Over a decade later, it is now our turn to be tested. Will we bask in the pleasure of our own resilience, or will we truly go to any length to stand behind peace?