Here we go again. Pat’s gonna write another blog post about something that’s touchy and sensitive and make a bunch of people mad and never read his blog ever again. Heck, ever since he wrote that Fourth of July post his readership’s been down ever since!
Well, all of that might be true, but I feel like I ought to speak about this subject somehow. It’s been ten years since a few religious extremists hijacked planes full of innocent people and destroyed American landmarks also full of innocent people. Ten years later, we hurt, we grieve, we remember, and we refuse to forget. We’ve gone a long way in these ten years, and grown in some ways, whereas in others we have much, much work to do.
I want to start with the places we have much work to do. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the good stuff in a little.
Ever since 9/11, our country has adopted several character traits that have not helped it grieve properly and heal its wounds. Instead, as a country, we have become vengeful, xenophobic, arrogant, and narrow-minded. It is my aim with this post to demonstrate these flaws and to offer solutions to remedy them. I will also offer hope, by showing where we have grown.
1) A desire for vengeance.
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” – Deuteronomy 32:35
From September 12 forward, a desire to see the lives of those who died avenged swept across America in our workplaces, our homes, and our churches. Killing Arabs was a commonplace discussion. President Bush said he wanted Osama Bin Laden’s head in a box.
This is coming from members of a country that claims to be founded on Christian beliefs and principles. I’ll admit that I was like this for a long, long time. I remember getting pretty happy when we went to war not only with Afghanistan, but also Iraq. Since then, I’ve grown, I’ve changed in my thinking, and adopted new understandings. I’d like to think I’m less of a vengeful individual now, but it’s hard not to want to retaliate even when someone playfully jabs at me. Even more difficult it can be to consider not wanting to retaliate against a blatant attack on our country. Americans are a very patriotic people, and to tread on such ideology will invite hostility quickly.
What I think we need to lessen is this hostility, and drop our vengefulness. Any mention of peace, of understanding, or solidarity invites accusations of unpatriotic-ness and treason, as if to seek peace with our attackers would dishonor the dead. Let me be clear: no one’s bending over for anyone here. Those who executed this attack are long dead, and their accused ringleader has been killed as well, more to the dismay of the 9/11 victims as opposed to their joy. Vengeance leaves us feeling empty and hollow; it does not satisfy as we wish it to.
2) Xenophobia, or fear of strangers.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
Prejudice and hostility toward Muslims, people of Middle Eastern descent, those of a lighter brown skin tone, anyone who looks like they might be a “terrorist” according the media-painted picture we have in our minds of what they might look like, has skyrocketed here in America in the last ten years. I’ve sat around campfires and listened to people my age talk about dropping nukes on mosques, listened to coworkers make derogatory comments about “ragheads,” calling for their expulsion from America. Our borders are tighter, our hearts locked up to anyone looking to come to this country we think is so wonderful (there’s our arrogance). We’ve taken our hurt, our anger at this tragedy and fixed the blame over a group of peaceful people who suffer just as much as we do as Americans, who love their country like the rest of us. We vandalize mosques, give women wearing their hijabs (head-covering) a cold shoulder for daring to show their faith around us, or opposing the building of community centers for muslims because we can’t get over our own ignorance.
Let it end. For the love of the God you may serve, or just for your love of humanity, let it end. Yes, a small group of Muslim men committed this act, so we can correctly say that religion did do this, but it was not religion as it should be known, but a twisted, distorted understanding, leading these men to their actions. All religions are capable of such misunderstanding; Christianity has led its followers to prejudice, to war, to bombing abortion clinics. In Jesus time there was a whole group of Jewish terrorists known as Zealots, hellbent on overthrowing the Roman empire, even at the cost of their own countrymen’s lives. Yes, religion can confuse and drive to evil, but it is men who do the confusing, not the religion itself. These men twisted the Quran to suit their own ideals, to suit what they saw as a counterattack to the United States’ actions on other Islamic brothers. This does not mean that Islam as a whole sees us the same way. Let’s stop lumping the whole of Islam with the actions of a few.
As a country we must continue to heal, and we must rise above and fight for a peace not just for our own security, but for solidarity with our enemies, and not by unilateral attack, but by diplomacy and compassion on those whom we have wronged, those who were incited to take. The beauty here is that I do see this in our generation. CNN belief blog reported a great rise in young people showing interested in interfaith communication. People DO want peace. We’re tired of fighting. We’re tired of hating one another. This isn’t just showing up here in America; it shows up even more in the Arab world, where all over the Middle East the Arab Spring has taken hold and the people are protesting their governments that inspire their people to hatred of the West. They’re standing up and saying “Enough is enough!”
In America, we’ve united over 9/11. We saw our disconnect, and we came together, though this unity is falling apart all over again while some heal their wounds as others pick at them and let them fester. Those of us who have healed need to become the healers, and bring those still hurting to healing. We need to see where everyone’s been hurt, everyone’s still grieving, and help their wounds disappear. We need to heal the wounds of those who call for war and destruction on other peoples, here in America or abroad. We need to heal the wounds of the families who have lost loved ones to these wars, American, Iraqi, Afghani, or anyone else who has lost. We need to be the hands and feet of the Great Physician, the Peacemaker, and only then will peace come.
Today, I’m praying for peace and solidarity. Will you?