Sunday, July 10, 2005
Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?
When something horrible happens, it's really hard to know what to say at first. Usually most people say something like "Oh my God, how can this happen?" or utter a four-letter word gasped in disbelief. Some just stand or sit, wordless. Within a few hours shock turns to anger and we want to know who perpetrated the heinous act, why didn't our government stop it, are they lying to us; the questions and conspiracy theories rage go on and on.
I knew someone who died on Flight 93, the United Airlines plan that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001. I didn't find out until two days later, when I saw his face on the local news. The pit in my stomach that had been been growing since that sunny and terrible morning suddenly suddenly became a sinkhole. I didn't know him well at all, but seeing a face belonging to someone I had talked to less than a week before suddenly shocked back to life the feelings fear and disbelief.
It happened again while watching the news broadcasts about London. I realized that time and time again this scenario is going to be played out throughout the world: normal people going to work, going shopping, simply doing things they do every day - until suddenly there is a horrific, unexpected event which rips across the fabric of thousands and millions and tens of millions of lives, slowly tearing apart a world we once felt safe in.
To have this happen in war is one thing. We've got thousands of years of experience of dealing with war. But terrorism is different. Who do we fight back at? What is the face of the enemy like? There are only a few faces we associate with 9/11 and terrorism in general. There's no specific country to attach blame to. News reports I've seen say that a group called the Secret Organization of al Qaida in Europe is responsible for the London bombings. No one has heard of them before as far as I can tell. They are, like most of al Qaida, a group that transcends national boundaries and operates in the shadows, stepping out long enough to cause horror and grief. Their reasons for it are based on their own brand of ideology, which we can't seem to relate to on any level, and I'm not sure I'd want to. They claim the Koran is the basis for their beliefs and the justification for their actions. But I know many Muslims, and the actions of these extremist groups are abhorrent to them and they are antithetical to the Islam they live in their everyday lives.
How do we end this scourge? Invading Iraq certainly didn't help. In fact it has added fuel to the burning hatred these people feel against the West, particularly the US and Britain. The terrorist groups certainly won't talk to us and our government uses the threat of future terrorism to justify their own questionable actions in the name of freedom.
All I know for sure is that I grieve. I grieve for all those who have lost friends and loved ones in these barbarous attacks. I grieve for the prisoners in Abu Graib and Guantanimo Bay who might be innocent but who guilty only by association. I grieve for the innocent civilians killed in war the that our government justified with false evidence.
I grieve for the military families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. I grieve for our men and women in the military who are in Iraq and Afghanistan, doing their jobs willingly, then come home to be insulted by a few of their fellow Americans who call murderers and babykillers, like Viet Nam all over again. Even if you disagree with the war, these men and women are patriotic and brave enough to carry out their missions they may not necessarily agree with in hopes of helping the people in these areas rebuild their countries.
Most of all I grieve for the loss of truth. Truth has been a casualty killed by both sides. There were no weapons of mass destruction to justify the war. al Qaida twists teachings of the Koran to justify their actions.
Sadly, I can see no end. At least not now. I fear that it will take an event so horrific, so obscene in scope and cruelty to bring about the end of this cycle of violence.
In the meantime we are left only with hope. Hope that truth and justice shall prevail over all the dogma, politics, greed and ignorance that allows terrorism to exist.
To the people who are promoting this hateful darkness, know that while you may cause chaos for a short time, you will be stopped. If not by us, by the god you so perversely invoke.