9/11 was an inside job. So is happiness.

Today, Lower Manhattan sits shrouded in fog, and perhaps that’s for the best. I work from home, just across the East River, and am not sure if I could sit and stare at Freedom Tower while I tap away at my keyboard all day.

9/11 is the national tragedy that just won’t go away. It’s stuck — like freshly chewed gum in a Pomeranian’s hair — in our collective unconscious: in the deep archive of tragedies that we’ve perpetrated and endured.

9/11 hasn’t been our only national tragedy, but it feels like the big one. The Twin Towers were a symbol of Western Dominance: of hard work, and the financial success that comes with it. In other words, The Twin Towers were a symbol of the American Dream, and I can’t help but wonder if — when the towers fell — our optimistic and idealized self-image crumbled with it.

When they crumbled, we were like Toto from the Wizard of Oz, peeking behind a curtain only to find that the Great and Powerful United States was nothing more than a common country with great branding.

In the years following, we have become increasingly more “triggered” by the provocations of the 24-hour news cycle. At 24 frames per second we are shown flashing examples of how the patriarchy, genocide, and slavery, are still flourishing today. We hear stories and see videos of the men in power who dominate and crush their female coworkers through sexual harassment and assault, of the corporate overlords who have stolen and destroyed native land for their own gains, and of the egregious police brutality against men and women of color.

Today’s state of the union is a manifestation of our epigenetic response to these ancestral wounds, and an opportunity to affirm our beliefs and oppose the behaviors that limit our inalienable rights.

9/11 was an inside job; so is happiness. The things that traumatize us are the things that can heal us and make us stronger than ever before. This is the magic from the tragedy: our collective ability to stand up for one another, to fight for justice, and to contribute to the healing that our nation so desperately needs. Now is the time for accountability, for validation, and for reparations to be made.

While I am stressed out and overwhelmed by the current political chaos, I’m hopeful. I believe that we are a country that grows and adapts and evolves based on certain guiding principles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. When the horrors of slavery became too grotesque to ignore, we fought a war to end it. When civil rights were being impinged, we changed our laws. When the overwhelming evidence of the medicinal benefits of marijuana became apparent, we legalized it. It took too long and too many suffered; but we, as a nation, eventually got there, which makes me believe that we’ll make it through this.

More work must be done. Life must be cherished. Liberty must be expanded and upheld. The Pursuit of Happiness must be the torch that lights our path.

“Through our scientific genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood; now, through our moral and spiritual development, we must make of it a brotherhood.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.