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My, America, how you’ve changed

Has America changed since 9/11? Of course it has. New York City, for example, will never be the same. That day will forever be etched in the minds of millions of people who live and work there.
Militarily, of course, our country is on high alert. Although we feel vulnerable, we are probably much better prepared for enemy attacks than at any time since World War II, when we actually feared an invasion by the Japanese.
Our airports have been staggered by security improvements, and air travel has diminished and slowed. More people are afraid to travel by plane, and more pilots and crew are thinking about how they would react to violence on board their planes. Pilots may soon carry guns.
Patriotism is at a very high point. More people are flying American Flags. They appear everywhere, on just about anything. It’s something people can do that announces, “I love my country” or “I’m proud to be an American.”
We give much more recognition to the brave people in the armed forces, plus firefighters, police and rescue personnel. With people like Sgt. John Travis, formerly of Corydon, digging a transport plane out of the mud at an abandoned airstrip in Afghanistan, we are more keenly aware of the dangers their jobs present, and we’re thankful we have so many well-trained people in the military who are dedicated to their jobs.
There have been other changes, too. I think Americans are more polite, more considerate, more appreciative, more tolerant of each other. You see fewer angry people in traffic (although some people in big trucks and SUVs still like to bear down on smaller, slower cars in the fast lane on the interstates). You see more people stopping their cars to let others go first. As our minister pointed out recently, we’re probably becoming kinder to strangers — a very old and strong tradition in other countries.
We enjoy our families more, our homes, our towns, our countryside. We have become superaware of other cultures. A couple of years ago, not too many people were concerned if Saddam Hussein killed a few Kurds in northern Iraq, or if the Taliban executed a woman in public for some minor offense. So what if women had to wear veils that covered their whole body? A couple of years ago, we probably thought the Taliban was a new aspirin or rock group.
Now our geography knowledge is much better. Now we know where Afghanistan is, and we have a fair idea where Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Kashmir are, too. We’re gaining an understanding of cultures and ethnic groups on the other side of the globe, and we’re becoming fairly astute on world religions, particularly Christianity as compared to Islam.
A lot of us probably think we know more than we do, but the more we know about Islam, and the more the Muslims know about Christianity, the better. The more we study each other, the more we find out that we’re quite a bit alike, tracing much of our religious and ethnic history back to the same person, Abraham.
Many Americans think most Muslims hate Americans and would like to see us destroyed. I don’t subscribe to that view at all. I believe most Muslims are like everyone else around the world. They would just like to live their lives and rear their families in peace. The Muslims who have dedicated their lives to killing Westerners are most likely religious fanatics, fundamentalist extremists who cannot abide a modern world. And the American people who think that all Muslims are religious fanatics hell-bent on destroying America are just as extreme and just as dangerous in their thinking. It’s the clash of fundamentalist extremism that produces so much of the hatred and destruction we hear about every day. The bloodshed in Israel is a good example.
Another thing in America that has changed is a new interest in reconciliation. You used to see it occasionally, and people were suspicious. Now you see it popping up here and there more frequently. People of opposite views or faiths are getting together to talk, to get to know each other, to break bread together, and, in almost every case, they discover that they like each other. If we could just get more individuals to do that, it would be a safer world.