The week after 9-11, I was walking with some friends in New York City near Rockefeller Center. A girl in our group remarked, "I wish they had not taken down all the other countries’ flags," referring to the flag poles surrounding the skating rink which were usually flying flags of countries from around the world. After the terrorist attacks they had all been replaced with American flags.
Another friend in my group turned to her and said, "Don't you think we need a little 'us' time right now?"
He was exactly right. America was united, at least temporarily, with patriotic fervor. Our heroes had been murdered and we needed those who were responsible to face justice. American flags were everywhere, police officers, firefighters and EMTs were our heroes. Our military was deploying to avenge those who died, and we thanked every single service member we saw. Political or religious differences didn't matter, we had all been attacked and America came first.
Our political differences soon returned and in the 20 years since that tragic day, our country seems more divided than ever. Even when we have the opportunity to come together in the face of tragedy, if we even recognize the chance, it is short lived, more often we miss it entirely.
The coronavirus pandemic should have been a time for coalescing as a nation. The virus was unleashed upon us and cost thousands of lives. Yet, even when we turned to American ingenuity to develop a vaccine and mass produce it in record time, there was criticism of those who placed America first, while simultaneously supporting rioters who sought the destruction of the American way of life for close to a year. Those who were not in power demonized the approach, criticized the methods and steps taken to ramp up American production to combat the virus.
When the election concluded and the balance of power shifted, those who had previously demonized the vaccine, including the new President and Vice President, changed their tune overnight and began demonizing those who would not take the vaccine. Those in power, determined to blame their own botched handling of the vaccine on those who supported someone else for political office, even though studies showed at the time it was the demographic groups they claim to represent who were most hesitant to get the jab.
Yet if Trump had won, would Democrats like Joe Biden, who now mandate vaccines, be the ones questioning its potency and safety?
The almost miraculous rapid development of the vaccine by American companies that was distributed around the world should have been cause for celebration. It should have been thought of as America saving the world, not through our military strength like during World War II, but by our ingenuity, by our economic model of capitalism, the competition of companies striving to be first to save the world.
Yet none of that happened. Americans were too busy ignoring the science and the achievements. Instead, they demonized those who dared to follow the data because they anointed themselves medical experts after reading social media posts. This just weeks after believing themselves to be political experts, or foreign policy experts.
There was no waving of the American flag to celebrate success, instead the flag and those who stood for the National Anthem were desecrated and mocked by celebrities and sports stars who were placed on pedestals, and politicians supported them thinking that tearing down the pillars of the country were the key to success at the polls.
Foreign policy, military and law enforcement experts agree that Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, coupled with his weak appearance on the world stage have left America ripe for another attack. We missed our opportunity to unite during coronavirus. I hope and pray it doesn’t take another horrific tragedy to unite us again.