In a year and two days, we have rebuilt the Pentagon, cleared ground zero, been to war and back and are ready to go again. We have become more patriotic, tougher. We have heightened our forces inside and outside of our borders. We say we are smarter than them, so why can’t we answer why?

By Gus Bode

If you asked an American why we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, most would reply that they didn’t understand or didn’t know why. They might blame hate or jealousy, but few actually claim to have an answer. If you asked a German, or someone from France, Brazil, Pakistan or India why the United States was attacked, they might be quicker to give you a solid answer. They would probably tell you why in specific examples.

I arrived in Brazil three weeks before 9/11 and for months afterward I questioned why it happened. While I was mourning and being “American,” people, including other exchange students from around the world, showed me the answer.

They wore Bin Laden shirts, sported his face on bumper stickers and sold packets of powder that they called “anthrax” on the street. At school, a kid came up to me and asked if I was American, a question he already knew the answer to. After I replied that I was in fact an American, he asked if they had killed my family yet. Another kid shot a paper airplane at me. It hit my arm and fell to the ground. I picked it up, unfolded the paper and read “Viva Bin Laden,”

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I was mad. I hated that kid, hated Brazilians; I hated just about everyone I saw who wasn’t like me – and that was just about everyone.

After a while, people started explaining why they felt that way. They often gave references to things I had never heard of- things I never knew we did. It was hard to know when my Brazilian history teacher was saying something completely different than I learned from my American teachers. It was even harder when their front-page news stories were about the same things as ours, only portraying things completely differently – so I did research to find out what was true and what was not.

The more I listened to people that had never been to the United States, the more insight I got into understanding how it was possible for people to want to do such things to us. And when they were finished talking, they returned the favor and listened to my point of view. I walked away a little wearier of my government; they walked away a little less.

When the first bomb hit Afghanistan, part of me felt like we were finally getting revenge. The other part of me, the part that actually listened to other people – people completely different than me – wondered if our government had done its homework. Sure we have the Secret Service, the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., but has President Bush ever called up the president of any country and asked him why this happened to us? Probably not, because it is hard to ask why and hear things you don’t want to listen to or believe. But he should.

No, we can’t go back and undo things that past administrations did, but we can learn from them. That is, of course, what they teach us in kindergarten. Instead of spending the rest of our lives being on alert against terrorism, why not spend one day on the phone trying to figure out the real root of our problems- the problems that reach far beyond terrorism and into the thoughts of everyday people around the globe.

As I arrived home a year after I left, I had a completely different view of my country. I loved it a lot more. But, I also loved the country I left and the people I met there. Once we got past how light or dark our skin or eyes were, we realized that we really weren’t that different. I learned to love their country. They learned to at least respect mine. And it works out that way.

When you spend all your time fighting back, you tend to forget what you are fighting for and sometimes, even who you’re fighting against. If you spend all your time questioning and never listen for the answer, you shouldn’t expect to find it.

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Kristina’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Egyptian.

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