Iowa City, Iowa
11 September 2001
Today has been a troubling day, and I hope this newsletter will provide you with some encouragement, healing, hope, and strength. Because I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and still have family and friends in New York City and Washington, D.C., this has been an especially stressful day. I will say at the outset that this is a challenging newsletter and will likely present a difficult read for most people. If you are not “up” for this month’s newsletter right now, please feel free to file it away for later. I hope to return to some of our regularly scheduled topics next month.
Last night I was up past midnight writing this month’s newsletter which I had almost completed. The feature article of the newsletter, in large part, addressed the theme of “Stopping Cycles of Destruction.”
I keep a journal of my dreams so I can refer to them later. Last Sunday, on September 2, I awoke from a disturbing dream. In the dream, I witnessed a terrorist attack in Washington D.C. near a landmark that looked to me to be like Dupont Circle. There was man with short dark hair dressed in full-length white clothing that had a middle-eastern appearance. He had a white headdress on. He was driving an older car that looked like a station-wagon that he used as a car bomb and blew himself up in the process.
In the dream there was the sense that this man was labeled as “Islamic,” although I knew that Islam is, in theory, a religion of peace, so I didn’t think he was really a practitioner of the faith. The dream struck me as unusual because, as a pacifist, I have rarely had any dreams with violence in them. In fact, I don’t remember the last dream I would have had with violence in it. After a few days went by, I didn’t give the dream any further consideration.
The goal of Resources For Life is to equip and empower people to live more abundant and effective lives so they can have a positive impact on the world around them.
As I close the introduction to this month’s newsletter, I want to remind you of this hopeful mandate from Hadassah Lieberman: “The `ultimate purpose’ of any government, organization, or individual should be `tikun olam, the repair of the world.’ (paraphrased)
I hope that we can meditate upon these words as we prayerfully move ahead in the days to come.
[The above introduction is excerpted from the RFL newsletter sent out on 11 SEP 2001 – 9/11]
TURNING TOWARD THE POSITIVE
Our understanding of today’s multiple terrorist tragedies will no doubt continue to unfold in the days and weeks to come. I watched about 3 minutes of the news early this morning where I work; long enough to realize that two plains had intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center. Then I turned the television off.
I heard of the additional attacks from colleagues who were keeping an eye on the news. At a time when we have so many opportunities for peace and cooperation, I find such events disappointing, disturbing, and upsetting. As such, I find it is more productive for me not to focus and meditate upon them, but to turn my thoughts and energy toward more positive things.
Despite today’s horrific events, I still believe there is great hope for peace, cooperation, reconciliation, restoration, and a better future for our planet. As such, I plan to believe for and work toward that end.
I remember when the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred off the Alaskan coastline. Many people were enraged and wanted to point the finger at someone to blame. Soon the picture of the man who wrecked the ship was in all the papers. Greenpeace issued a surprising world-wide statement about the event that some people found offensive. Underneath a photo of the man who wrecked the ship was the caption, “It wasn’t his driving that caused the oil spill, it was yours.”
The article that followed argued that it was really our society’s demand for fossil fuel that caused the spill. I initially was offended by the article. It implied that my lifestyle and my dependency on automotive travel was part of the root cause of environmental problems today. Yet, as I re-read the article and pondered its deeper meaning, I began to consider how I might be able to make changes in my life that would have a positive impact on the environment. After all, while I can think globally, and act locally, the greatest impact I can have is in my own life. In the same way, when I am faced with challenges, I want to consider what I can do to be part of the solution.
POSITIVE STEPS TOWARD PEACE
This article discusses some of the challenges we face in our country today and provides some positive and constructive examples of things we can do to make our nation stronger. My hope is that we will not have a full-scale retaliatory attack upon the nation(s) or group(s) responsible for these violent acts. My hope is that we will not have a “proportional response” either. My hope is that, among those who are willing, we can become introspective, meditative, prayerful, and self reflecting to explore how we might, as a nation, work toward world-peace, beginning here at home.
Reflecting on a conversation from this past weekend, I wrote to a friend yesterday regarding conflict resolution saying, “I’m actually quite interested in studying and learning about how people can take our `frustration energy’ at every level and redirect it in positive ways.” As simplistic as it sounds, I believe much of the violence and terrorism we see today is a result of people misdirecting or mishandling their frustrations. Surprisingly, we still have psychologist today who are advocates for violence and encourage adults and children to develop and feed their anger and rage. The obvious problem with this kind of “Rage Therapy” is that it promotes unhealthy emotions and doesn’t foster forgiveness, healing, and cooperation. We must foster peace and reconciliation at every level in society. Action Point: * Give serious and thoughtful consideration to ways in which you might be creating rage and frustration in others by marginalizing them, ignoring them, misrepresenting them, labeling them, and otherwise treating them harshly. If you are someone who feels like you are being marginalized, ignored, misrepresented, labeled, and otherwise being treated poorly, it is critical that you re-direct and convert your negative energy toward positive and productive purposes.
I’ve heard varied suggestions today from people in response to the violence we’ve experienced. Some people have suggested that we outlaw all religion since it is the cause (or so they claim) of conflict in the middle-east, the oppression of the Taliban, violence in Northern Ireland, and now terrorism in the United States as well as many other atrocities in our history. While misguided religious practitioners have done great harm to society, we can’t blame religion. In general, religion has resulted in considerable peace, healing, cooperation, hope, reconciliation, and understanding. Action Point: * Promote and encourage the practice of a faith that is consistent with the peaceable teachings of that faith.
ISLAM UNDER FIRE
I receive daily information from a variety of world news services. Today, I was deluged with an overwhelming number of Anti-Islam news releases. This certainly is an opportune time for anti-Islamic aggressors to sharpen their swords. The primary argument being made is that Islam teaches violence and the practitioners of Islam are violent, oppressive, totalitarian, expansionists.
There are a few problems with this argument:
- Only a small number of Islamic people are used to make this claim.
- While it is true that a few self-proclaimed Islamic fundamentalists promote violence, they do not represent the voice and mission of Islamic community as a whole.
- There are millions of Islamic people around the world who believe and practice a peaceable form of Islam. So, we cannot necessarily denounce Islam because of the acts of a few misguided people. Even if large segments of the Islamic community were deceived into a massive delusion by misguided leaders who believe that violence is a solution to conflict resolution, this still does not represent the message of Islam, it only represents the madness of a few misguided leaders.
When individuals in the U.S. commit acts of violence against the U.S., we don’t find out what state they are from and then attack that state. Nor do we find out what faith they claim to adhere to and then attack that faith group. Why do we do this with international terrorists?
Action Point: * Try to meet and learn about someone who is Islamic. Discover what you have in common. Discover what misconceptions and prejudices you might have had. Find out something unique about Islamic culture, community, and faith that you can appreciate. Address differences constructively. Reinforce positive views. To find out more information about Islam, visit: https://www.resourcesforlife.com/lifeways/islam
THE PROBLEM WITH ATTACKING ISLAM
The primary argument against Islam among its foes is with regard to violence that is purportedly representative of the Islamic faith. Violent acts that claim to be expressions of Islam are no different than violent acts that claim to be expressions of any other faith. They are misguided. Christianity has in times past experienced seasons of imposing violence upon people. However, we don’t reject Christianity because of its past horrific and massively destructive failings. Nor can we reject or attack other religious faiths on such grounds. We must remind all people of what is good and peaceable about their faith and encourage them to pursue those qualities.
For more information on government responses to terrorism and threats in the United States, you can read about Homeland Defense on our web site. One movie recently added to our site, called The Siege, portrays what might happen if there were a massive terrorist attack on New York City by so-called Islamic Terrorists. The movie explores the problems of responding to violence with aggression. The movie also explores the dangers of racist discrimination against people groups. This movie provides some insight into how and why terrorism exists.
STEPS TOWARD UNDERSTANDING . . . STEPS TOWARD PEACE
Terrorist and violent acts can never be justified, condoned, or sanctioned. However, it is critical that we understand the reasons behind such horrific acts so that if at all possible we can work to prevent them and resolve the conflicts that lead to them.
The information that I’ve received from various sources suggests that the certain middle-eastern and third-world nations and groups are upset with the United States for the following reasons:
- We provide guns to their enemies that are used to shoot their children.
- We bomb their cities.
- We silence them and ignore their concerns.
- We marginalize and stigmatize their culture and faith.
- We impose economic sanctions that cause innocent citizens to suffer and die.
- We destroy their environment and natural resources.
- We influence their government and economy in ways that strip their autonomy.
- We attempt to influence and dominate their culture by imposing our own.
- Our corporations severely exploit their women and children workers by paying substandard wages.
- Our corporations dump toxic waste that pollutes and kills their people.
- Our corporations sell them dangerous and harmful pharmaceuticals that are banned in our country.
Personally, I have been startled by some of these accusations and claims. I received an e-mail today from an Israeli news agency that explained, “Islam sees the USA as a decadent society influencing the world against Islamic (conservative religious) values . . .”
Action Points: * It is possible that, as a nation, we might be doing some things that upset certain people and nations. Perhaps we can work toward being more mindful of how our relationships with other nations impact the people and quality of life in those nations.