Like so many other Americans, I have spent the week in shock, anger, and grief over this week's events. Each new story of loss is a heart-wrenching reminder of the preciousness of every human life. Every one of those thousands of casualties means untold pain to so many others.
Now, added to the grief and anger, comes a sickening dread. Will our country stoop to the morality of the terrorists by inflicting similar pain on innocent people of other countries? Will women, men, and children who are unfortunate enough to live under regimes defined as U.S. enemies be subjected to American bombs and missiles?
I believe that the guilty should be brought to account. But I also believe that the U.S. should stand up to our highest principles, not stoop to inflicting carnage on the innocent as the terrorists have done. We Americans believe in protecting the innocent until proven guilty. We Americans value every human life.
I have two children. I believe what we do in the next few days will determine whether they grow up in a world that respects human life or one that believes that violent retaliation is justified, even if untold numbers of the innocent are killed and maimed in the process.
We Americans are facing a test. Let us not lash out in anger and fear, but choose our response with wisdom and compassion.
Sarah van Gelder
I want to congratulate you on your issue dedicated to the tragedies of New York and Washington, D.C. I also want to register my vehement disagreement with those who argue that terrorists and terrorist organizations are just too 'elusive' to deal with effectively.
Terrorist groups have to be hosted somewhere by someone on some government's physical territory. In view of that, the United States should immediately adopt a policy of ruthlessly making the harboring and nurturing of terrorists eminently unhealthy for the host nation. Toward that end, I propose the following for your consideration. Enunciate a policy that says "If you host terrorists and terrorist organizations on your soil, even if you don't finance them, even if you don't lend them active aid and comfort, by simply having them physically present on your real estate, you are putting at risk: (1) your capital city, (2) your military assets, (3) your economic assets, (4) your political leadership and assets, and (5) your country's infrastructure. Can't get them out? Fine, then ask for our, the U.S.'s, help. We'll be more than happy to assist you in any way that you specify. But you have only two choices: (1) rid yourselves (perhaps with our help) of the terrorist presence, or (2) we will rid the planet of your entire country. And oh, by the way, the clock has begun to count down to zero."
Would innocent people die? Sure. But at this point, the only choice we have is whether the body count is in the thousands or in the millions. And quite frankly, if innocent people have to die, I would prefer that as few as possible be American citizens. That is the first responsibility of any government.
The brute fact of the matter is that in order to win this war, the United States must become as ruthless and as cutthroat as the people we are fighting.
Welcome to the brave new world.
James R. Cowles
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the Christian equivalent of the Taliban, have blamed Americans—Americans!--for the terrorist attacks. Based on their twisted fundamentalist faith, these preachers believe their god is angry at Americans. Specifically, and conveniently, he's angry at everyone that Falwell and Robertson hate: pro-choice Americans, feminists, homosexuals, and those who support the separation of church and state. The ACLU, NOW, People for the American Way, NARAL, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are all to blame.
What is their god's solution? Murder 5,000 innocent people. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. These fundamentalists believe that their god drowned most of the planet in a flood and ordered genocide and infanticide throughout the Old Testament. This is a barbaric belief system. And it is a dangerous belief system. Falwell and Robertson have essentially declared open season on large segments of the American population. If they believe it was justified for their god to punish us, then their followers will likely decide to continue the attacks.
Christian fundamentalists have already bombed abortion clinics and murdered doctors. We need to protect ourselves not just from Islamic fundamentalists, but from all religious extremists.
Matthew J. Barry
PROVOCATION & COMPASSION
The horrible terrorist acts against the United States have been called an attack on freedom. But freedom never provoked such acts and never will. We provoked these attacks with a foreign policy that hasn't stood for freedom for a long time.
We provoked them with our routinized bombing of Iraq, and our economic strangling of that country, which has killed over half a million people. We provoked them by our devastation and continued military occupation of the Balkans. We provoked them by supporting Israel in its blatant assassination of Palestinian leaders.
I imagine something almost impossible. I imagine that instead of anger and retaliation, we respond to these attacks with compassion. Let us do now the hardest and most powerful thing we could ever do: turn the other cheek. Let us lift our siege from the rest of the world, withdraw our troops, and dedicate our great country to the principle of respecting the freedom of everyone on Earth. If we do that, if we practice goodness with our strength, then we deprive potential terrorists of the motive to attack us.
The other road facing us—and we'll undoubtedly take it—is to increase what we call "security," through repression at home and retaliation abroad. Everyone knows that this type of "security" can never protect us from a dedicated terrorist. But it can and will destroy the very freedom that we say we want to protect.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
I am a mother and United Airlines flight attendant. Along with the rest of the world, I am trying to heal from the recent tragedies and devastating loss of life.
I just want to say to our president and the rest of the world, please do not hate at a time like this. Please work harder than ever for peace. There is no justice. All we can do is love one another. Please do not try to play God. We must revere life.
Last week I was just a mom and a flight attendant. Today I am an activist. Please work with me for peace.
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