Forces That Shape Us

With today’s news, it’s hard not to react in some way.

As I watched the news last night, I saw the scene of the people who were starting to gather outside the White House. I was struck by how young they were. For most of them, the 10 years since 9/11 make up the bulk of their lives. Many probably don’t have much memory of a pre-9/11 world. This environment of heightened security and anxiety has been their norm.

It made me think of the world I grew up in, but not in a nostalgic way. I grew up at the height of the Cold War. It was Us against the Godless Communists. Those of you around my age probably remember that era the same way I do, at least if you grew up in the U.S. The Space Race, which was really just the Cold War played out on a technological field. The Olympics, with the U.S. vs Soviet Union medal count featured prominently.

I served in a Cold War Navy that trained to fight said Godless Communists on the high seas. And, at least it seems now in memory, that one day it was just kind of over. Walls fell. An enemy that had existed for my entire life just kind of withered away, wraith-like. And you were kind of left wondering “well, that was a hell of a lot of trouble for nothing!”

I think of this whenever I gas my car up. The guy who runs the convenience store/gas station is Russian. I go there often enough that he recognizes me as a regular, although we don’t chat much. He’s about my age, and I often wonder if he didn’t spend some time skulking beneath the waves in the North Pacific in the 1980’s intending to do me harm while I was practicing the same ill will toward him. And now we’re just two old farts living in Minnesota.

As I look at the younger folks, who came of age in a time of constant war. I wonder what their “take away” from all this will be, to use a popular term. They’ll be shaped by the events of this past decade, probably in ways they don’t even know yet.

We’ll never be rid of the scourge of terror, but hopefully this is at least the start of a turning point. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the world over the last several months, most of which are still working themselves out. I hope that the communications tools we have in the Internet and social media will be used to foster understanding and not just a conduit for hatred.

I hope we abide by the old superhero motto and only use these powers for good, not evil. And I am very optimistic we will. After all, if me and Yuri from the gas station can beat our swords into plowshares, anything is possible.

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