I purchased a book entitled NEWYORKSEPTEMBERELEVENTWOTHOUSANDONE. It is a scrapbook collection of writing, photographs and newspaper clippings documenting the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Even as I reached out for it in the bookstore and then lifted it from the shelf, I felt a great sorrow begin to fall upon my heart. As I sat on my sofa and read the accounts of eyewitnesses, survivors, 911 calls from people trapped in the towers, and looked at photographs of debris, falling bodies and flames, I found my stomach repeatedly pushing up its contents. As I forced them back down, I closed the book and began to sob. I did not find myself turning to God for consoling. I realized that from the moment I even took notice of the book, deep inside a voice had been growing. And as these images and words flooded my consciousness, the only words I could find were an explosion of deep fury.
I am realizing that my anger has not left me. I am still angry about the lives destroyed on Sept. 11. I am not finished mourning, and part of me fears that on some level I believe that retaliation will bring ease to my heart. Somewhere deep inside I fear I am still blood thirsty.
Globally, I have some type of non-emotive, rational outlook on why the attacks took place. As Noam Chomsky so directly wrote, "For the U.S., this is the first time since the War of 1812 that its national territory has been under attack, even threatened. Its colonies have been attacked, but not the national territory itself…. During these years the U.S. virtually exterminated the indigenous population, conquered half of Mexico, intervened violently in the surrounding region, conquered Hawaii and the Philippines (killing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos), and in the past half century particularly, extended its resort to force throughout much of the world. The number of victims is colossal…. For the first time, the guns have been directed the other way."
But in my heart, I cannot escape processing all thoughts of these events through a filter of ash, blood and fire. I cannot escape the thousands of lives taken. The hijacker’s anger led them to murder.
I find in myself a very un-Christian response to this. For this, I hate them. At best, I will not hate them, but instead, I will not love them.
And here is my fear: I will support the War on Iraq, not because of a legitimate need to protect the innocent, but out of my anger and fury from the thousands of lives that were destroyed with such cruelty on Sept. 11. My anger blinds me so much that I care little whether we are seeking to kill one man or hundreds of thousands of men. In fact, I don’t care if that man is Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. I don’t care if they are Iraqis or Afghans. I don’t care if my government bases their acts of war on Sept. 11 or oil. Somewhere deep inside, I still want blood. I still want an eye for an eye.
And that scares me, because what if the thousands of others here in the U.S. are feeling the same thing? What if we all are still broken and bitter and vicious over the attacks of 2001? What if we’re a country that doesn’t know how to mourn, and therefore, we never did? What if we tried to move on too quick only to discover we never moved on? What if our anger and bitterness is about to lead us to murder thousands of people? What if our anger is about to sign our own death warrant?
Noam Chomsky wrote, "How the West chooses to react is a matter of supreme importance. If the rich and powerful choose to keep to their traditions of hundreds of years and resort to extreme violence, they will contribute to the escalation of a cycle of violence, in a familiar dynamic, with long-term consequences that could be awesome."
Even still, I find myself taking residence in neither the camp of opposition or endorsement with the pending war. Tonight, however, I find myself questioning my motives, asking God if my desire to see this war take place comes from my desire to help protect the world, or does it come from the same place that left me on my sofa tonight, weeping tears of ash, blood and fire?
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