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Carroll County Times Opinion

Dean Minnich: We can’t let hate control our nation’s narrative | COMMENTARY

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are part of the current American story, the unfolding drama about what may be someday recorded as the Decline of the Great Experiment. The hijacking of American airliners to assault the World Trade Center, Pentagon and another crashed by brave passengers in a Pennsylvania field led to wars that added to the ever-growing list of people to hate and a continuing distrust of immigrants.

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Others will have their own opinions about when the most egregious affronts to our representative democracy took place, while most will accept the legend of the founding of the nation with the Declaration of Independence and then, years later, the reworking of the plan with the Constitution, amendments and changes in laws.

You could make the point that the Civil War was a key detour, perhaps even a derailment, and the failure to actually hold on to the reconstruction after that war was one of the great failures in our history.

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The failures will pile up if we list them, but the accomplishments, the progress, have been worth holding up as our legacy; that is unless the far-right political forces successfully chip away and destroy all the basic ideals at our foundation. A nation of equal opportunity, based on fairness and justice regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin.

The morning of the attacks in New York, I was standing on the sidewalk on Main Street, talking with the proprietor of Giulianova Deli, when Cal Bloom stepped out on the sidewalk to announce that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York.

I had been a child when a military bomber wedged itself into the upper floors of The Empire State Building, what was then the tallest tower in New York. I was thinking this was a replay of that story.

Yet within moments of stepping into Cal’s shop to watch the TV, a second plane veered, almost as if in slow motion, and hit the other tower

What?

I turned to Cal and said, “The world just changed.”

Not since Pearl Harbor had any force dared to attack the American people. This act of terrorism was an unprecedented assault on the country.

But I was wrong. The world really changed about six years earlier, and it was even worse, but we misunderstood the significance at the time. The real threat to America was not from Islamic terrorist. It was from within, from the radicals that in just a few years would gain strength with the favor of a populist, narcissistic con man who gave voice to seething hatreds.

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On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh, a former Army soldier with ties to militia groups, bombed the Alfred E. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as an act of rebellion against the FBI, federal government, and anyone deemed not American enough. In the blast, 168 people were killed. Among them were 19 innocent children of government employees attending a day care.

It was just an anomaly, the nation told itself. Nothing to see here, said those who had been supportive of the racist and xenophobic political extremism. The militias will go away. They can’t last because Americans are essentially decent people who abhor racism and bigotry.

We were wrong. About a year ago – maybe less – I wrote here that I did not believe America is a racist country; the weakness is less toxic, shared by all races, like ethnic pride.

Since then I have continued to watch, listen, read and learn. What is it about our past that incenses the right wing and white and the nationalists and evangelists to object to more understanding of our past?

I’ve come to the conclusion that complacency is our greatest failing. If the haters are the only ones who care about the American story, it will not be a heroic tale; it will be a tragedy.

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Dean Minnich was a Republican County Commissioner. He is not affiliated with any party and writes from his home in Westminster.


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