This year in particular it seems almost imperative during the Independence Day holiday to examine what it means to be American.
In late summer the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The average kindergartner then would today be 25 years old, perhaps not quite old enough to comprehend the gravity of the event but they were almost certainly attuned to their parents’ mood as they grappled with the shocking assault on the United States.
Those same kindergartners would today be in their mid-20s, old enough to grasp the historical significance of that moment, but young enough to perhaps not be as emotionally scarred as the adults around them in 2001.
The 20-somethings now are of an age—as are those of us who were already adults in 2001—to have watched the Jan. 6 2021 assault on the Capitol and legitimately wonder if they witnessed another an attack on America, albeit of significantly less magnitude.
In the immediate aftermath of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers, common and accepted explanations for the terrorist attack was “they” were against the American way of life. One of the basic and crucial foundations of the that way of life is our representative form of government and direct elections.
But in late 2020 and early into 2021 that guiding principle was undermined by the former President of the United States, Donald Trump, as he regularly claimed the presidential election had been rigged.
Time and again the evidence he and his supporters presented was refuted by courts. Time and again he and his supporters still insisted the election was compromised and stolen from him.
And so he urged his followers to march onto Capitol Hill to persuade the vice president and members of Congress to overturn the election results.
Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters did, carrying flags emblazoned with Trump’s face alongside American flags. They broke into Congressional chambers and hunted down representatives who had barely been escorted away.
Twenty years ago the nation came together when the United States was attacked. Today the country is divided as there are some who see the Jan. 6 attack as justified.
The difference in perspective seems a lifetime apart.