Friday marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It will be a remarkable anniversary thanks to our continued fascination with multiples of five when it comes to remembering and honoring big historical events. It’s a reminder of what, for many of us, was the scariest day of our lives and, for many of us, the saddest.
For those of us who lived through it, it’s something we will never forget. Obviously.
But you know what else I’ll never forget? How easy it was to make a left-hand turn in the first few weeks after the attack. I got waved through more times from Sept. 12 to Oct. 1 that year than I have, in total, in my entire life.
All I had to do was put on my blinker and cars would stop to let me turn. It was like I was magic. Also worth noting is that merging was a breeze for a short spell back then, and people actually yielded at yield signs.
I recall doors being held, “please” and “thank you” being bandied about and a general sense of “how you doin?” permeating the air.
In short: We were nice to each other. Black or white, liberal or conservative, young or old, Ole Miss Rebel or Southern Eagle, it didn’t matter. Kindness ruled the day.
Fast forward to 2020. In fact, fast forward to a specific sampling of comments on my former newspaper’s Facebook page after I wrote a column about respecting the Office of the President of the United States, written after Nancy Pelosi tore up the State of the Union speech on national TV.
These comments were part of a chain, and are not edited, and were actually some of the tamer comments given.
“He’s a scumbag. U conservatives will never learn.”
“no point in being reasonable. Trump lovers do not listen to reason.”
“there it is. Get off ur high horse u entitled deplorable.”
Scumbag. Entitled. Deplorable. All within a few minutes. In short? No one is letting anyone make a left hand turn anymore.
To say that we are a divided nation is an understatement. We’re a divided state, a divided town, a divided neighborhood. Somehow, we’ve gotten away from the fact that we are all Americans, all live in a free country, all entitled to our opinions. We are all able to vote and have our voices heard. Each of us has the right to affect change.
How did we get here?
Hard to say, but the partisan bent by news outlets doesn’t help.
The hard turns made by both the left and the right doesn’t help. And social media doesn’t help.
I don’t remember who said it, and I can’t find it on Google, but it stuck with me and goes something like, “America used to be a melting pot, but social media has crystalized us and our opinions.”
It’s true – we go on Facebook, repeat the opinions we heard on Fox News or CNN. We scream, yell, insult, and repeat.
In the end, the blame falls squarely on us. We are the ones letting it happen.
We need to know that it’s ok to disagree, and it’s ok to talk about it.
But somewhere in the last 20 years we’ve forgotten that we are all actually on the same team.
Is there a way back?
Is there a way we might be able to stop treating each other so badly?
Who knows, but letting people make left-hand turns probably isn’t the worse start.
Christina Pierce is publisher of The Pine Belt News and Signature Magazine.