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Whitlock: September 11 is now a day to remember why we are divided
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Whitlock: September 11 is now a day to remember why we are divided

A high school outside Seattle canceled plans for students to dress in red, white, and blue at a Friday night football game because administrators feared the colors would be perceived as racially insensitive.

Predominantly white Eastlake High played predominantly black Rainier Beach on Friday, one day before the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Students at Eastlake planned to decorate themselves in patriotic colors to honor first responders and the Americans killed on that day.

According to emails obtained by a local radio host, the principal at Eastlake told concerned parents the school nixed the plans because the colors could "unintentionally cause offense to some who see it differently."

Eastlake is 62% white, 22% Asian, 8% Hispanic, and 1% black. Rainier Beach is 60% black, 24% Asian, 9% Hispanic, and 5% white.

Patriotism is polarizing. It's defined now as an expression of white supremacy.

How did we get here? And how did we get here so fast?

Twenty years ago, we allegedly rallied around the flag. We put aside our political, religious, and racial differences and united against a common enemy — the threat of terrorism.

Or did we? Is the unity sparked by 9/11 just another example of fake news, of narrative subjugating fact?

I'm beginning to believe so. Sept. 11, 2001, did more to tear us apart than bring us together. Sept. 11 will be scrawled across the tombstone of the United States of America. It's analogous to Nov. 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated in broad daylight on a Dallas street.

Despite the best efforts of corporate media, sports leagues, and Big Tech to memorialize and commercialize 9/11 as a day of unity, its true impact on America is divisive. Remembrance of 9/11 is rooted in cynicism, skepticism, and distrust. It spawned conspiracy theories on the political right and left. From "Loose Change" to Alex Jones' shouts of "inside job" to Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," Americans were fed a justifiable smorgasbord of pessimism and bitterness.

Just like the narrative of Lee Harvey Oswald as lone assassin, few Americans believe we've been told the full truth about what happened on Sept. 11. The pervasive cynicism that engulfed America eventually led to the hyper political partisanship we have today.

We quit believing in America.

That's the real lesson of 9/11. It's an unlearned and/or ignored lesson from that tragic day. Why do I say we quit believing? Because it's the only explanation for how easily we surrendered long-established privacy freedoms to protect ourselves from diabolical and dangerous men hiding in caves in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Only non-believers abandon their beliefs as quickly as we did.

The administrators running Eastlake High School outside Seattle don't believe in America. That's why they think red, white, and blue in combination are potentially offensive and would rather cancel a harmless symbol of patriotism than risk offending a rival school immersed in critical racism theory.

The administrators are no different from the men running the National Football League. The NFL kicked off its new season with the playing of the so-called black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." The NFL no longer believes in the United States of America. It symbolically supports the separate states of America.

Trust is built on truth. It's not built on individual acts of American heroism. The CBS magazine show "60 Minutes" aired a one-hour tribute to the 343 New York firefighters who sacrificed their lives in service to the men and women trapped inside the World Trade Center towers. The tribute was powerful and emotionally evocative. It was not remotely restorative. America cannot recapture its unity without reclaiming its regard for truth.

During the "60 Minutes" broadcast, the surviving New York firefighters acknowledged their shock that the towers collapsed. It was an unprecedented event that no one anticipated. Host Scott Pelley offered a brief explanation why the towers melted and caved in.

My point is that remembrances of 9/11 re-raise questions more than they re-raise patriotism.

The first responders in New York may one day be remembered as the last American patriots, the last Americans en masse to enthusiastically and heroically answer President Kennedy's challenge to ask not what your country can do for you, but to ask what you can do for your country.

Only the truth can save America. Unfortunately, we lack the capacity to recognize it and the courage to accept it.

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