Cheers and Tears…
I live in Michigan and to my knowledge am unacquainted with anyone affected by the recent terrorist activity. But I did realize two days afterwards that I felt unusually tired. I asked a co-worker, "Am I the only one that's tired this week?" and she replied, "We're all tired after this week's trauma."
I look for good in unexpected situations. I especially admire three groups of people and their responses regarding this tragedy.
I admire the passengers on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. After not hearing any reports from locals in the crash area saying that they saw fighter jets that morning, I surmised that the hijacked passengers took control. Hearing about the crashes from either radio or their covert cellphone conversions with relatives, they could immediately conclude that this was no ordinary hijacking. They realized the intention for them to die as part of a living bomb. And, fearing less for their own lives than for the lives of the president and his advisors or the lives of hundreds of citizens, these brave passengers overpowered the hijackers. I'm sure some were injured or killed in this effort before their plane crashed. But they also realized that their much larger group could execute a coordinated attack on the armed intruders. And they could prevent their plane from delivering its attack. They of course hoped that they would survive this horrible turn of events, but they were not incapacitated by fear and acted against the perpetrators.
Eventually the news organizations began reporting that evidence exists to confirm this heroic action. I admire these passengers.
I admire the actions of people who immediately thought to give blood. New Yorkers, Michiganians, Iowans, Texans, Californians… Blood collections in recent years have been only sufficient for one or two days. But when an obvious need arises, many citizens realize that everyone can do something. Maybe they did overwhelm the blood centers. And perhaps it would be better if a larger supply existed on hand so extra volunteers aren't so badly needed when disaster strikes. But when disaster does strike, many of us give without being asked. And now, no one need ask because the shelves are or soon will be full.
Third, I admire the New Yorkers. These New Yorkers unselfishly work 30 plus hours without sleep during this rescue effort. They organize immediately. They descend the narrow emergency stairs, often single file, carry others, and don't panic. They don't loot. They don't protest inconvenience. They behave like the good citizens in Middle America do. They are human and caring, like I'm sure they more often than not have always been. They don't behave as the cold, unloving, self-centered stereotype that the rest of America criticizes them for being. They don't deserve the jokes shared at their expense.
On the other hand, I've been saddened by more than the mad actions of these terrorists and the death and suffering they caused. I'm saddened when Arab Americans fear for their lives and the lives of their children. As the Oklahoma tragedy should have taught us, not just foreigners and people of ethnic heritage behave abominably. And these Arab Americans fear with some reason as subsequent events in Texas and elsewhere prove.
I'm saddened by the apparent rush to war. The rush to get even. And worse, the rush to accelerate the get even to getting ahead. I hear so often the plans to get up on another for one thing or another, whether personal or business. And although these are usually practical jokes being 1-upped, often even this gets out of hand.
Instead of calls for justice I hear calls for punishment. Innocent people were killed in America so why should it be a problem if innocent people elsewhere in the world die? An "eye for an eye!" But Christianity emphasizes fairness and restraint over emotion.
Further, Christianity doesn't understand suicide as a means to a desirable end. We shy from discussions of suicide even when suicide kills more American teenagers than any other cause. So how can we 1-up a group of people who champion suicide for what they consider a noble cause? We can't win at the ever escalating game of atrocities. Nor should we even think about entering this arena.
An Afgan spokesman asked, "After this event at the World Trade Center, do we Americans dream of and aim to achieve retribution?" He then continues, "How do you think we feel after the bombing of our people in 1998?" He refers to our response to the destruction of the US embassies in Africa. We may have tried to "pinpoint" our missiles then, but in all military action there is collateral damage, as we euphemistically describe deaths of innocent people when we bomb others.
In the 1960's I traveled in Europe while attending school at Newbold college. I found that it was common for even Europeans to resent Americans. They complained that Americans must always be richer, smarter, always right, and noisy. The people complaining were empowered people of another rich society. How must people from countries feel who are not empowered? We Americans are privileged in spite of the obvious fact that we sometimes suffer. Our technology may be superior. Our education may be superior. Our rights in this instance of tragedy may be superior...
But do we really think that we can, and even should, always have things our way? We learned differently in Vietnam. During the American War for Independence America freed itself from the grip of the then most powerful nation in the world. Our military fought differently from the British. We didn't win big. But this strategic difference enabled the USA to become a nation and ultimately we superceded Britain in power (although Britain is still militarily strong).
In Vietnam we learned that we don't always know how to really win. We won most if not all the battles. But Vietnam is still today one of a dwindling number of communist countries. We pretty much won the war in Iraq ten years ago. But the thorn remains. And the war fought in Iraq was modern and conventional. It was another brute force win. But when hopelessly unempowered people can bring down 5000 Americans with a loss of life among the terrorists being only 19 people... Well, this is a major win for them. And such suicide-based strategy is a tactic that we as Americans are unprepared for. And should refuse as Christians.
Of course, I believe we should attempt justice without war. We should prosecute and imprison those whom we identify and can legally arrest. It makes no difference to me whether we can or cannot win the new paradigm of war. We should choose to do what is right and refrain from what we merely think will make us feel good.