The first president of Czechoslvakia, Tomas Masaryk, remarked, “Democracy is the political form of humanity.” As the world was shocked by the horrible events of Sept. 11, we have seen the family of democratic nations rush to support their grieving ally and friend – the United States. It has been difficult to observe the harsh events of the 11th from abroad. As friends and colleagues have been personally affected by the attacks, including our own Leslie Whittington, I have felt powerless and paralyzed across the Atlantic. As members of the Georgetown community rushed to volunteer and donate blood, the many students abroad have been limited to E-mail, telephone and what little support we can send back home. I will never forget the difficulty and frustration I have felt throughout this de facto isolation. It was, however, in the depths of this seclusion that I saw for the first time the strong support that our family of nations has been offering.

It began with a pair of Czech youths with American flags sticking out of their backpacks on the subway. Then I noticed locals reading stories in the newspaper and the somber expressions on their faces. While visiting Dresden, a friend and I happened upon the Dresden World Trade Center and were touched to see stickers on sale bearing an American flag and the words “On your side.” Slowly, I began to realize the tremendous outpouring of grief and unity that our friends and allies abroad were transmitting not just to the United States as a whole, but to every American.

The most moving demonstration of unity and support was at the American Embassy here in Prague. About 10 of us went to bring flowers a few days after the attacks. We were overwhelmed by the piles of flowers and cards and the hundreds of lit candles. The president’s and parliament’s wreaths were literally buried under a sea of bouquets from common Czech citizens. The condolence book was full of comments and signs of support, many in Czech and other languages. A Czech woman was kneeling and relighting candles that the wind had blown out.

These few personal encounters cannot do justice to the millions of people around the world that have shown their grief and solidarity in simple ways. Often in America, we forget that we are not alone in the world. We forget that we are not unique in our love of democracy and free society. The coalition that our leaders are forming is not a temporary grouping of nations that feel sorry for America, nor are they solely driven by their own losses in this horrible tragedy. Rather, as we see from the support around the world, it is a manifestation of family support for one of its deeply hurt and grieving members.

We see a coalition developing against terrorism today, but we fail to remember that this group is more than that. This is a coalition formed by a century of war, both hot and cold, and it is not just a coalition against hate and terror, but a coalition for justice and freedom. Every nation that calls itself a democracy and commits itself to freedom understands the pain of our sorrow. While no nation is perfect, we are all moving forward toward a day when we can proclaim and exercise both more clearly and vocally our fundamental human rights.

What America must take from this tragedy, as we move forward, is that we are not alone. We are one among many. We are not the almighty interpreters of truth and justice, but along with the family of free nations we can together seek a better world. In the wake of tragedy and grief, the Kyoto Protocol and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty are forgotten – and rightfully so. But, in the weeks and months ahead, we will have to focus on more mundane issues. When that day comes, it will be incumbent upon the United States to remember the charity of our friends and allies. We must begin working with them anew to address the pressing questions of our times.

The United States prides itself on being a strong presence that has helped bring liberty and justice to the oppressed of the world. We have no reason to be ashamed of toppling communism, protecting Kuwait, stopping bloodshed in Bosnia and Kosovo, and so on. What we must remember is that we accomplished these things together. The free nations of the world stood up and worked in unison to overcome these horrible foes. The United States has long been viewed with a begrudging sense of appreciation. As Winston Churchill once pointed out, in solving a problem America would try every option and eventually do what was right. We will prove ourselves in the coming battle against terrorism, but let us learn from this experience.

We are creating more than a one-time coalition of fair weather friends, we are calling together a family of democratic nations and we must go forward in unity. Only in this way can we vanquish terror and hate, and a build a world of hope and understanding. President Bush has told us that this is not a battle of our choosing, yet we will win it; but our freedom and way of life are of our choosing – let us work together to fight for them.

Marko Liias is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He is studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic.

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