Monday, September 11

"It's Not What Happens to You, It's What You Do About It"
is a book written by a remarkable survivor, W Mitchell. Many years ago I attended a Realtor convention in Anaheim, California, and wandered into a small conference room thinking I'd kill some time in between meetings. After a minute or so, a man in a wheelchair came into the space and it seemed like everything got brighter. I looked a bit closer and noticed that he was horribly burned and disfigured, yet his disabilities did not prevent him from directing his assistant to set up the riser and podium and his sound system quickly and efficiently. He then took command of the room, including me and the forty or so others who were fascinated and transformed by his story of personal disaster and unrelenting determination to be a better person in spite of his adversity. I was moved then and think of him often, especially today.

I've lived long enough to experience disaster and the bewildering aftermath of uncontrollable events. There is a period of numbness that allows us to "carry on" and move through the rubble, putting one foot in front of the other until we are able to rest. During this period, we are on autopilot. We automatically make those decisions that keep us alive and fight like hell to avoid deep feeling and consequently, deep thinking.

Once we are able to rest, though, a thousand knives slice our guts as we sort out the whys and hows of the event and our part in it. Fear and the survival instinct that kept us going, now morphs into anger. Rage jumps on our backs and soon we've got guilt, shame, blame, and panic joining the fray. This is when I feel the most pain, and when I must wake up and make choices.

At this painful crossroad, I will often over-think the problems and solutions and wind up running in circles. An old trick is to fall back on the fear and numbness and hope some survival adrenalin will kick in to boot me out of the pit. This only makes me more destructive and prolongs the painful healing process.

When faced with this crossroads, W Mitchell is a strong proponent of the "Just Do It" philosophy:

"The key for all of us who want to make a difference is to act. To do something. Anything. That's the key that will unlock the door to a future unimagined by so many people. Sometimes...we feel powerless, unable to do anything. Just one act, anything you can think of, can restart your engine."

"Just because you're out of work doesn't mean you can't begin a physical fitness program. Just because you're out of love doesn't mean you can't improve your job skills. By getting better in one area, you'll help your self-esteem, which may unlock the door to new relationships, and perhaps point yourself in a new direction. Is it easy? Perhaps not. But as someone has said, 'Easy doesn't do it.'"

The first time I saw W Mitchell, he was his wheelchair. The first time I heard W. Mitchell, he was the embodiment of mind over matter. His disability does not define his life. The actions he has taken to transcend his disability defines his life.

In the past week or so, I have been reluctant to turn on the television. Every station has a program about the horrific attacks against America on September 11, 2001. Footage of the death and destruction is shown over and over reinforcing the helplessness and horror of that day. Today, I realized that what this country must do is not recreate and perpetuate the horror and destruction, but transcend this tragedy. 9/11 is not America. What America has done to transcend 9/11 is the real America.

I am proud of those who survived that day and carry on, despite their nightmares and depression. I am proud of those leaders who support the positive, life affirming actions that protect us from terrorists, and also wish to protect us from natural disasters, like Katrina, global warming, air and water pollutants, grinding poverty and disease. These are the policies and actions that perpetuate "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

I do not support the one-party rule that allows our President to selectively enforce laws or change laws that he has violated. I do not support the Bush administration's faulty reasons or actions in launching a never ending "war on terror" at the expense of our weakest and most vulnerable citizens. I am sickened at the Bush administration's "ends justifies the means" mentality that actually gloats that because of this "war", there have been no attacks on American soil in five years. This fact does not justify the sacrifice of ten to fifteen American lives a day, nor the death and mutilation of innocent citizens in Afghanistan, Iraq, Britain, Spain, and other places worldwide. It does not justify the expenditure of one billion dollars a week on war - money that we must borrow from Japan and China. Those that feel the terror wars are a success because we are "safe" at the expense of others remind me of the Aztecs that thought nothing of appeasing the gods with human sacrifices.

Our nation is at a crossroads. As overwhelmed and powerless as I feel when it comes to my role as an American citizen, I have to take action. Mid-term elections are coming up, and the propaganda machine is working overtime (e.g., ABC's "Path to 9/11"). It would be so easy to say my vote doesn't count and why care anyway, but that is one weakness I can't afford. My vote does count and the checks and balances of a working democracy must be restored. One party rule is wrong and allows leaders to ignore the Constitution and disdain minority opinions. So, I'll vote and keep informed of the issues. There are worthwhile volunteer opportunites I can add to help myself and others; and there are personal choices I can make each day to support the environment, energy conservation and the community.

I am with this nation, at another cross roads and I am hopeful that tragedy and terror will not define our country. I am hopeful that there are enough people like me to affirm life and take those constructive actions to stay alive and reject the fear-mongers who want to take us down a "war on terror" road that never ends.

May all beings know love and peace.