September 11, 2001, the day the world stopped to watch in horror as the World Trade Center’s two iconic towers came tumbling down. The day the largest and most influential country’s military headquarters, the Pentagon, was attacked by a single suicide attack plane. The day the voices of the cockpit recording of the highjacked United Airlines Flight 93, before it crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, would be etched in our memories forever. The day the USA was attacked by foreign terrorists resulting in the loss of 2,996 people with over 6,000 people injured not counting the brave first responders still fighting to recover from toxic exposure.   

The September 11th terrorist attacks put the world on notice. The terrorists underestimated our resilience and capability to love one another. The world banded together as we worked through the grief and shock of such a horrendous act. No one old enough to understand the significance of the events has forgotten where they were and what they were doing that day. I still feel the fear and emotions of not reaching my NYC based daughter for over 24 hours after the event. It was a day we all promised to never forget.    

Yet, we seem to be forgetting.  

Today, there is a growing divide fueled by extremists and purposeful rhetoric intended to break us down as a society. The way we behave to each other as fellow citizens makes it hard to remember the promises we made to each other after 9/11.   

The division and hate we are seeing expressed every day in the news and social media is tearing us apart. Acts of domestic terrorism and mass murder threaten with the potential of becoming numb to them. The use of toxic, derogatory, and even vulgar language between professionals on business sites like LinkedIn in incredulous. The acceptance of bias threatens to push us back 100 years as a society.    

Social media is not the cause, nor is it the mainstream media. We own it.  

Social media is a tool with the potential to positively impact human behavior. Social media gives us access to diversity of opinion and thought from different cultures and regions of the world. This access has the power to broaden our minds and challenge our thinking. Most importantly, it gives us knowledge and access to people across the globe, enabling respect for people outside of our small circle of life.  

The divide we are now experiencing is something we have done to ourselves by our own closed mindedness. We’ve dug our heals in and built a resistance to question our commitment to our position. Closed minds, close minds all around us.   

The Challenge 

If we own the problem, can we not also own the solution? A famous George Bernard Shaw quote states, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.The challenge is that closed-minded people don’t know they are closed minded. When was the last time you heard anyone brag that they were closed minded?  

Another challenge is people’s natural fear of being wrong. Fear locks your mind like a death trap. People, especially leaders, are stubborn and confident in their convictions. That is what makes them leaders, their convictions. The fear of failure further hardens their convictions. They avoid looking weak, foolish, or “wishy washy.” Unfortunately, this can lead them into a state of bullying through disagreements in their position.  

Opening Our Minds 

We have choices. If we open our minds, others will open their minds to us. It will take courage to express and accept your closed mind and understand that there are some things that are very hard, if not impossible to change. For example, my first reaction to this was to say, “my core values are nonnegotiable. Even when writing it I could tell that my mind was closed to changing my core values. Should I not be open to testing the bias and beliefs they are built on?  

When was the last time you learned anything while talking? Never. Our biggest prohibitory to an open mind is our mouth. 

Who do you hang out with? Are they all like-minded? When was the last time you intentionally sought to understand someone with a difference of opinion or someone who could expand your thinking? 

When was the last time you said out loud, “I don’t want to hear it.” I know when my last time was. It was a few days ago. Fortunately, a dear friend gently called me on it. (Thank you, Friend. You know who you are.)    

What is the risk of listening? What are the risks of trying someone else’s ideas? As a person who likes to be in control (yes that would be me), I find that when I give up control, it is like taking a vacation.  Interestingly, when I sit back, I can see how others feel respected, valued, and energized.    

If you are still reading, thank you for allowing me to share my heart.  

Until next time, I will leave you to ponder your thoughts as we take the time to remember the day the towers fell, the memories of lives lost, and our promise to never forget. My hope is for you to stand with me as leaders in a quest to close to the divide.   

Mary 

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