A Time for Reflection
By Dave Kinnear
Like most Americans, I've been thinking a great deal about the terrorist attack on our country. I've drawn some conclusions based largely on my Unitarian Universalist Principles of justice, equity and compassion in human relations and formulated more questions on which to contemplate. So when a colleague asked me what I thought our community needed to hear--I decided to write down some of my ruminations for him. Please keep in mind that I speak only for myself in this matter.
I conclude that there is no circumstance created or encouraged by America, or any other nation, which can justify the actions taken by a few extremists on September 11. My understanding of Islam is such that I cannot believe that any mainstream Muslims would condone the action either, no matter how disappointed they might be with another country's interaction with the world community. So we are, as usual, dealing with extremists, and they could have been from any culture or any religion or any country.
"...the citizens and politicians of the U.S. should take a hard look at what it is we do that creates such hatred towards us and our way of life."
The response of the world must be measured, thought out, and executed as flawlessly as possible. But terrorism of this kind, from any group, cannot be acceptable in the world community as a way of making a point or getting one's views accepted. This attack cannot go without a response; otherwise it becomes acceptable for everyone to use death and destruction as a way of gaining attention. But we must be much more mature in our response, and it would best be done as a world community, not as a unilateral move by the U.S. or NATO. The response should be against terrorism of all kinds, not just those who perpetrated this particular crime. Because they chose the World Trade Center, the terrorists killed innocent people from over 80 different nations. Perhaps this may provide a catalyst for a world coalition against terrorism.
Other terrorist actions seem to be localized such as in Ireland and the Middle East and therefore easily ignored by those who do not seem to have an interest in the outcome. So atrocities are ignored in the absence of any enlightened self-interest. Perhaps this event will wake us all up to how we cannot let hatred, bigotry, war and terrorism continue.
Perhaps, if there can ever be any good that comes out of this tragedy it will be twofold. First, the world will unite against using violence to solve problems and will only resort to such actions as an absolute last defensive measure against known threats to world peace. Secondly, the citizens and politicians of the U.S. should take a hard look at what it is we do that creates such hatred towards us and our way of life. Again, that is in no way meant to create an excuse for the violence. We are quick to see the good that we do, and slow to recognize the harm, unintentional though it may be. If we can manage to reap this bitter harvest, then perhaps we can move forward to accepting each other, respecting differing religious beliefs, and supporting our world community rather than destroying it and ourselves.
You cannot console the innocent Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, and others who lost loved ones in this action. It will ring hollow to say in any form, no matter how mild, that the U.S. deserved this and should have seen it coming. But neither should we ignore the message, no matter how extreme, that we have somehow created hatred toward our country and other industrialized nations. What caused that? Are those feelings, not the action in any way justified by our own actions, even if we think those actions are misinterpreted? What do we do to be more accepted in the world, while keeping in mind that you cannot possibly make everyone happy? And what do we do to be more accepting of our brothers and sisters in the world community?
These questions, and many more, will continue to haunt our collective consciousness as we move forward with our lives. I can only hope that we have learned something from this frightening experience, even if it is only that much of the world lives with this terror every day. We must break the cycle so that we can turn our energies toward learning how to live in harmony with each other and our very fragile planet.
Dave Kinnear is President of the Unitarian Universalist Church of South County in Mission Viejo, California.
Topics: Conflicts And War, Legislative Branch