< I wrote this a month or so after 9/11/01 >
My initial gut reaction to the attacks on the World Trade Center was complete disorientation. Like many in the USA, I, too, had become complacent
about the prospects of mass violence. This state of confusion persisted for weeks it seemed. Although I soaked in the calming presence of the divine in worship, I still felt turmoil in my thoughts.
I knew that I was supposed to reject war and vengence, but my mind and to some degree, my emotions, were deeply unsettled.
It was easy to oppose the Gulf War. Kuwait was a dictatorship funneling cheap oil to the USA which was being taken over by another dictatorship
which would likely be more profiteering. No great political or moral issues hung on that conflict. It was naked self-interest.
However, the destruction of 7,000 lives in New York struck me deeply in a personal way. I didn't know anyone in that disaster, but I live in a major
city that could very well have been another target of terrorism.
I craved a simple and direct idea to center my thinking. One of the first was given in one of the many religious statements against war - justice, not war. This gave me an accessible "mantra" with which to confront but not totally quell the disquiet I felt within.
I have been a pacifist since I was nine years old. I then believed the sermon on the mount absolutely, despite my own father's attempts to change my mind. He was a Pentecostal preacher, but could not seem to take Jesus' teachings on retaliation as literally as he did most of the rest of the Bible.
At that age, my main security problem was facing school bullies in my new neighborhood in Chicago. Coming from a small town to the big city forced me to reckon with a level of conflict I had never known. Knowing that I could never fight with enough force to win, non-resistance seemed the most dignified reaction. For the most part, I think it worked. After a few months, the bullying died down as the kids got used to me being around.
However, deciding not to fight school bullies is a far cry from opposing a war that seems to have such a justifiable cause. At least one Quaker of
national prominence has come out publicly in favor of the war against terrorism. His arguments echoed some of the inner doubts that were troubling my own conscience.
However, these doubts began to fall away as the reality of the situation in Afghanistan became clearer. The apparent goal of the USA's violence there is to destroy the political strength of the Taliban and to install a USA-friendly government in their place.
The last time we succesfully did such a thing in a muslim country - Iran in the 1970's - the result was the provocation of a Shi'ite revolution in that
country. Why do we have any hope that similar policies in Afghanistan will have any more success than Iran?
I have no such confidence, in fact, quite the opposite. Current USA policy will most likely lead to further destabilization of Islamic governments
around the world and I would not be surprised to see the "Iran Syndrome" replayed in at least a half dozen countries.
Even if the USA is successful in the short-term in Afghanistan, the long-term might very well be a global disaster.
Pacifists of all stripes need to unite in calling for an end to such a destructive path. Pacifists of relgious faith need more than ever to call
the world and this nation to a spiritual path that is higher than the brute logic of human vengence.