Candidates should focus on policies, not insults

Two weeks ago, Americans marked the seventh anniversary of September 11th in their own way – some with sober contemplation, others going on with their lives.

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain met together at the site of the former World Trade Center and refrained from airing attack ads on TV for the entire day as well.

According to a Reuters story, when McCain and Obama met, McCain patted Obama’s back and told him that it was good to see him. The two even told reporters in a televised forum later they would both consider offering the other a post on their Cabinet.

Apparently Sept. 11 is now the only day of the year, except maybe Christmas, that we come together and forget all that divides us.

But why was 9/11 the exception and not the rule? The days when we came together with American flags on our cars and slogans like “United We Stand” now seem so much longer ago than seven years.

If “lipstick on a pig” or the question of how many houses the McCains own bring a sense of recognition to you, then you know what I mean.

The candidates cannot entirely take the blame, either. Just search Facebook and you’ll find plenty of groups with names such as “Stop Barack Obama: (one million strong against communism)” and “I hate John McCain I know there are 999,999 others of you.”

I don’t mean to sound like some ignorant fool with her fingers in her ears just blabbing on, “Can’t we all just get along?” Sure, I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony and buy it a Coke and all that, but I know there are bigger issues at stake.

Insulting each other or arguing is not going to be the way to fix these problems. All we accomplish when we argue is closing ourselves off more to what the other side has to offer.

We are all adults here, and we should be able to have an election where the candidates spend more time actually detailing what exactly it is that makes them the better choice than harping on each other’s faults.

We are not the country we promised each other we were going to be. Some of this was inevitable as war and a failing economy take their toll. But what would our past selves as we existed on Sept. 12, 2001, say if we were to find we’re still having elections where the candidates spend so much time and energy on mudslinging?

A few months ago, rather against my will I’ll admit, I saw Paul Greengrass’s masterfully haunting United 93, the account of the passengers on the fourth 9/11 flight who fought back against the hijackers. One of the things that struck me was how there was absolutely no political agenda to be found in the film other than the ones audiences would make.

My gut reaction after the movie was to feel pride for the passengers’ sacrifice, as in other times Americans have sacrificed in the past. The more I thought about it, the more I realized they just did what anyone else would do when faced with the unthinkable. After all, sacrifice is not a uniquely American concept.

That’s the way we should remember 9/11: it was not an American tragedy, it was a human one. It showed us the best and worst of humanity all at once.

As human beings, we need to work together if we ever want dreams to become reality.

After 9/11, we unfortunately did fall victim to some knee-jerk patriotism, some that is still reflected today. But while our reactions might have sometimes been wrong, the principle behind them was absolutely right. Seven years ago, we declared “United We Stand,” but it would be wise to remember the flip side of that statement: “Divided We Fall.”

United. This is the way we need to live our lives. Not just every Sept. 11, but every single day. It is not about winning an election, it is not even about winning a war; it is about saving our civilization from our selves.

Valerie Hannon is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Allen.