I concede the difficulty of a numbed mind putting together coherent thoughts in a meaningful way in the aftermath of the multiple tragedies of September 11, and thus offer some random thoughts that have been recurring:
1. It has become trendy recently to suggest that the very notion of “truth” is passe, that we can look at nothing and point to it as being “true” in an absolute sense. Perhaps this tragedy will give to this intellectually-suicidal reasoning the death it so richly deserves. We rightly react with outrage because deep down we know instinctively that there are some things which are undeniably wrong. Can we not all agree, deep in our hearts, that that which was perpetrated upon the citizens of this country was an unspeakable evil? Can we not all agree that a person who would cheer these developments, such as we witnessed taking place in certain Palestinian sectors, is a person who is warped–yes, wrong–in their thinking? Would anyone dare suggest a plausible justification for these cowardly acts whereby they might be labeled “good”? The answers to these questions are obvious. These acts are evil in their entirety, and to suggest otherwise is to be in some sense an accessory to such evil.
2. The natural stepchild of the death of truth is the death of courage, producing what C.S. Lewis referred to as “men without chests”. Such men exist in a lethargic world without conviction, where there is nothing for which they would die, and where there is thus ultimately nothing for which to live. There are certainly plenty of evidences that apathy is a predominant emotion in our society, as we care little anymore for grand ideas and transcendent values, preferring instead to stare into space as our minds rot with Jerry Springer and “Survivor”. And yet a time such as this calls for courage, for men and women to respond in such a way that they willingly place themselves in harm’s way, if need be, to protect the principles of freedom upon which this nation has been built. I am hopeful that we as a nation will be awakened from our lethargy and energized by the stories of courage that are already beginning to come from this tragedy, in order that we may be drawn away from the trivial and toward the significant, away from the nonsense and back to truth, and, dare I say it, away from the transitory and toward the eternal. We live life to its fullest when we live for realities and causes greater than self-interest.
3. My hope is that wisdom will dictate our attitudes and our responses to this situation. I say this because, while we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t experience emotions of anger and sorrow because of these events, we must not allow emotion to substitute for reason when it comes to our responses. For instance, these dastardly acts were committed by a few hopelessly misguided souls, almost certainly Arab Islamic extremists; they are condemned by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims. Now, I have my strong arguments with the Islamic faith, believing it to be a counterfeit religion. At the same time, I respect the right of all Americans to practice the faith of their choosing; I know that the majority of Muslims do not practice their religion in terroristic fashion. Americans of Arab descent should not be subject to our scorn, nor should Muslims be the subjects of our discrimination. When we move to implement justice regarding the perpetrators of these acts–and by the way, I agree wholeheartedly with the President when he says that justice must be exacted against nations who harbor these terrorists–we must do our best to strike against those responsible and not against innocents. Human life is sacred, as a gift from God, and there are no qualifications on that; innocent American lives and innocent Arab lives are equal in the sight of God, and as we exact justice, let us do so swiftly, surely, and in a manner which strikes at the guilty while leaving the guiltless unpunished. And in our thinking here at home, let us not in some warped way consider people in our communities, be they Arab, Muslim, or what have you, to be somehow “guilty by association”, for this can yield little good.
4. I fear the impulse that might arise from some quarters which would seek to limit our freedoms in response to these terrorist acts. I grant that there will need to be tighter security at airports (I’m appalled to find out just how lax it has apparently been!), and I’m certainly willing to be inconvenienced in this and other small ways. But there are plenty of well-meaning folks who have been far too willing in the past, it seems to me, to trade freedom for some brand of “security”. When we get to the “how do we fix this” stage, let’s be careful that we don’t “sell the farm” of our freedom in order to try to fix this thing or that. To the degree that we do, we allow the terrorists to win!
5. Last, while our differences with each other will remain, we must set them in their proper context. I believe that contemporary liberal thinking is severely misguided, but our context now is one in which we concern ourselves with those values we used to hold in common, and I pray still do. We care for each other regardless of political affiliation or skin color or religious belief. We are Americans, and together, we must stand strong for what we know in our hearts to be right, and for freedom here and abroad. God bless America…again!