As our thoughts and prayers turn to that horrendous day, I can’t help wondering about all that has transpired since and wondering “What if…..?” In the days following the terrorist attacks the following email message was circulated the world over, I’ve kept it all these years.
“Bomb them with butter . . . .”
A military response, particularly an attack on Afghanistan, is exactly what the terrorists want. It will strengthen and swell their small but fanatical ranks.
Instead, bomb Afghanistan with butter, with rice, bread, clothing and medicine. It will cost less than conventional arms, poses no threat of US casualties and just might get the populace thinking that maybe the Taliban don’t have the answers. After three years of drought and with starvation looming, let’s offer the Afghani people the vision of a new future. One that includes full stomachs.
Bomb them with information. Video players and cassettes of world leaders, particularly Islamic leaders, condemning terrorism. Carpet the country with magazines and newspapers showing the horror of terrorism committed by their “guest”. Blitz them with laptop computers and DVD players filled with a perspective that is denied them by their government. Saturation bombing with hope will mean that some of it gets through. Send so much that the Taliban can’t collect and hide it all. The Taliban are telling their people to prepare for Jihad. Instead, let’s give the Afghani people their first good meal in years. Seeing your family fully fed and the prospect of stability in terms of food and a future is a powerful deterrent to martyrdom. All we ask in return is that they, as a people, agree to enter the civilized world. That includes handing over terrorists in their midst.
In responding to terrorism we need to do something different. Something unexpected. Something that addresses the root of the problem. We need to take away the well of despair, ignorance and brutality from which the Osama bin Laden’s of the world water their gardens of terror.”
This morning as the September sun shines as brightly as it did eleven years ago, I can’t help wondering what might have happened if we had paid attention to our better angels. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it… Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate…. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We will never know what might have been. But I wonder if we are ready to learn to forgive. On this bright September morning can we turn our hearts, prayers and minds to the challenge of peace? Can we begin to forgive? Do we have the courage to ask for forgiveness?
As one who strives to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, I am struck by how quickly my own hunger for justice can so quickly devolve into an acceptance of measures that only appease my own desire for security. The challenge for me is to follow Jesus beyond what seems prudent to a place beyond fear. Do I have the courage to forgive? Do I have the courage to ask for forgiveness? I wonder???