Vicki Hinze © 2003-2011
Since the attacks of September 11th, I haven’t been able to focus on writing, to concentrate on anything. At first, I was stunned. Now, I’m angry and confused and I can’t focus on what I normally write, so I’ve been robbed of my normal emotional outlet–writing. How can I write? Everything seems so insignificant now! There is no normal anymore. It’s as if the world has been set on its ear and I’ve lost my footing. Help!
First, let’s acknowledge what happened. That Tuesday, seven-thousand people got up and went to work that morning, just as we all get up and go to work. They weren’t fanatics or zealots or soldiers. They were moms and dads and kids and they were murdered. Of course that stunned us. God help us if we were not stunned by this.
Even for those who did not have relatives murdered, we SAW it happen on television. The impact on us was the same as if we had physically been there. We’re all directly involved. That involvement induces traumatic stress. And all of us are mothers, fathers, sons or daughters. All of us know police or firemen, CPAs, attorneys–normal people going to work every day. We relate. We’re affected.
Broaden the scope, and we’re more, not less, involved. This attack was in New York and at the Pentagon. It was not other Americans attacking New Yorkers and those from Pennsylvania. It was outsiders attacking Americans. We’re Americans, too. So our American involvement intensified.
Citizens of other nations, who have been the recipient of former terrorist attacks empathize–not sympathy, but empathize. They have experienced the trauma of terrorism, and were already intimately familiar with the horrors of it. They’re involved, too.
So collectively, we the people, regardless of nationality, were stunned. And we suffered shock. So of course we couldn’t write. Of course we had trouble focusing and concentrating. And of course, when we contrast life and death to anything else, the importance of everything else pales in comparison. Feeling all else is insignificant and that we’ve lost our footing is human.
Typically, feeling stunned and shocked lasts about forty-eight hours. Then anger sets in. It took longer in this case because of the magnitude of the event. Our planes, our people on them, crashing into our buildings, full of our people.
The added knowing of the symbolic intent only magnified that affront: American and United airlines. The World Trade Center–the symbol of our free economy and capitalism. Our knowing that other targets included our nation’s Capitol, The White House–all symbolic targets of terrorism chosen deliberately to destroy our way of life, our lives, and to destroy our faith and devotion to a system of government with which our attackers disagree.
On an even broader scale: Our knowing that the attackers defile a religion and dismiss many of our own religions as sacrilege. Of course, we feel anger. Of course, we do. We’re human.
And of course our normal ceased to exist. We cannot and should not expect ourselves–as human beings, much less as Americans–to experience such an event and remain the same. How could we? Experience changes us, and this is a multi-layered, whale of an experience.
Even now, we see protesters in streets in countries half a world and light years away who want us dead. We see our flag–the symbol of freedom and liberty to us–burned. We hear truths we know in our hearts and heads being twisted and perverted in the name of religion, when we also know that religion stands for peace and love and this abuse of Islam is a sick and disrespectful aberration that is deplorable.
We see and hear and we mourn the loss of our innate belief in the goodness of all men, and our faith that reason and justice will resolve all conflicts. We grieve for all we’ve lost, including our innocence. And we weep because we know that before a resolution is had and this conflict ends, more men, women, and children will suffer and die.
Our reality has changed. Our normal has ceased to exist. We didn’t choose those changes, but we can and must choose to accept those changes and to forge our new reality and our new normal.
That means each of us must reexamine our lives and our definitions of it. We do choose what our new reality and our new normal will be. We can drift into this new reality and normal, letting our decisions be made and defined by others, or we can define them. I believe it is the act of a responsible adult to define my reality and my normal myself. You must choose what you believe.
Despite the illness, I too have had trouble writing what I normally write. This is odd, since my topics have included appreciating the sacrifices of our military–topics like biological and chemical warfare, our need for a missile defense system, and for the last five books, fighting terrorist attacks–and raising the bar for our political leaders, taking strong opposition to corruption. My novel in progress deals with Justice. Truth and justice and liberty.
Those are vitally important topics to me. But right now, I find I’m having trouble focusing on any one of those things long enough to write a complete novel. It isn’t a lack of interest or apathy. It’s that I’m feeling bombarded by a deluge of input on topics I care deeply about–and I’m confident that this is the challenge that has most writers reeling at the moment. The bombarding deluge.
So again, we writers face a choice. Writers’ voices can be silent, or writers can use those voices in alternate ways. I can’t, nor should I, choose which you do. But I can and have chosen for me.
I’m writing. I’m voicing my opinions on current events. I’m writing essays and letters to my representatives. I’m talking with family and friends and teachers who are counseling children having a difficult time processing events and dealing with them constructively.
I’m taking stands, not remaining silent. For example. The American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to sue Breen Elementary School in California for having “God Bless America” on its marquee. They’re citing it a violation of the Constitution under the separation of church and state.
Before September 11th, I would have sighed, been irritated, and ignored this. Not now. Now, I’m taking serious exception to this affront. The Constitution says we’re “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.” That includes me. It says there will be no state-required religion, that this union will not force anyone to be a member of a specific religion. It does not say we cannot utter the word “God” in schools. Quite the opposite. We are assured the Freedom of Religion. And I’m sick and tired of people telling me when and where I can express mine. I don’t care what religion is practiced. I don’t care what name “we the people” call God (and I doubt He does either!). I DO care that a verbal minority group has put limitations on my right to worship, and I’m not going to let them define my faith, or my expression of it anymore. (For the record: I pray every day of my life that God does bless America–and mankind.)
I’ve also decided that I back the President a hundred percent and I am heartily recommending that my Congressional leaders forget they ever heard the terms Republican and/or Democrat. I’m an American and so are they. I do not want to hear the words Republican or Democrat uttered. I expect all Congressional Representatives to act in unison in the nation’s best interests. Not in their party’s best interests. If even now they can not act in America’s best interests, it’s their duty as citizens to resign.
I’m outraged that a good international religion is being defiled by so few fanatics. And that while we Americans allow our religions to be sequestered, we engage so much care to be politically correct and not offend other nations’ practicing their religions. (No fighting during Ramadan; no offending Muslims.) It’s time to be as cognizant and caring about the practices of our own religions as to those of other nations. We don’t deserve better than anyone else, but by George we deserve as good as anyone else.
I’m equally enraged by news networks who refuse to allow commentators to wear the flag on their lapels. Normally, I just quit watching. Now, I write NBC and tell them why I’ve blocked their channel on my TVs and why I won’t watch any program they air anymore. They’ve a right to make their choices, and I mine. Same goes for Reuter’s. They can’t call a terrorist a terrorist? Fine. I understand that the majority of their business is in Europe and they don’t want to offend their base. They offended me. On my own behalf and that of 7,000 people who died. So Reuter’s gets a letter–and I stop all support of them.
I included these personal items so you could see how confronting what is on your mind can bring clarity and purpose to you. There is a lot going on we can’t control. But there are some things that we can, and by taking that control, we don’t feel as helpless or hopeless. We don’t feel like victims.
These are the things I can write about now. These, to me, are things that matter, and things that will define my new reality and my new normal.
So write about what you can. Define your new reality and your new normal. Write about what matters most to you at this moment. You aren’t unable to write. You’re simply not engaging your head and heart on what has your rapt attention at this time. Grasp it. Write through your anger and confusion. You’re forgetting what a powerful tool putting your thoughts down on paper can be for you emotionally.
When you write, you bring order to chaos and confusion. You logically work through intense emotions and clutter. You bring reason and compassion to you, clarity, and that calms your mind. It brings you to a place where your head, heart, and mind can make sense of some things, and acceptance on those things that never will make sense. In writing, you can find comfort and solace and peace.
There is no denying that this is a critical time for the world. A time filled with crisis. But it’s also a time filled with opportunity. We must not lose sight of that. This is a life-defining moment for each of us, and if we don’t seize it, then we doom ourselves to again fall to apathy and to become the victims of those who do seize it.
I choose not to be a victim. I choose to define my new reality and my new normal. What do you choose?*