A Spiritual Look At 9/11, Part I
[The following article, divided into two parts, actually deals with 9/11 from a spiritual, psychological, ethical, and, at times, political perspective. You could call it an effort to follow up on Deepak Chopraís "The Deeper Wound", a beautifully stated call to the world to enter into a period of soul-searching and reflection in the wake of 9/11, in order to find a deeper and more meaningful response to that act, and others like it. - I have attached the full text of "The Deeper Wound" - the article (there is now, also, a book) - to the end of the second part of my article, as well as a story quoted by Jack Kornfield, the renowned American Buddhist teacher, which provides an amazing true story about the transformative power of compassion. What my own article lacks, these pieces will surely make up for. As for my article, it deals with morality, anger, justice, grief, life and death, karma, Christianity, and the behavior of individuals and nations, all centered around the 9/11 incident, and aimed at finding a way to defuse the situation which produced that tragedy. It speaks to all of us - to the terrorist, the victim, and the anti-terrorist - and, as any real effort to find solutions must, speaks strongly, combining compassion with a certain hardness, for it is a time when people need to face the truth that offers life, no matter how painful: for the violence of a confused and misguided world will surely be far more painful. I am aware that my article is likely not to be as spiritual as those seeking a purely spiritual discussion would like, nor as political as those seeking a purely political approach would like. Still, I hope this piece will prove of some value to these troubled times. - JRS.]
September 11, 2001. A day that means many different things to many different people. A day of fear, grief, and anger, all over the world (and for some, a day of joy). Is there a spiritual way that we can look at the events of September 11, that will help to put everything that happened on that fateful, tragic morning into perspective? That will help us to see that disaster with deeper, wiser eyes, and find a way of turning it into something beneficial for mankind, something capable of healing and uplifting us, rather than poisoning and destroying us? Is there a secret knowledge contained in that overwhelming tragedy that can help us to prevent future September 11s before they occur, stopping them not with handcuffs, bullets, and bombs, but with the higher power of our hearts?
I donít write this article frivolously, as a casual outsider to the pain. New York City is my town, and for me, the blow struck against it on September 11 was deeply personal.
How can I explain it? The long love-hate relationship between me and my city, a materialist giant, but also a heartland of poets, rebels, dreamers, artists, and great souls. A city of cruel rents, grinding jobs, crowded trains, constant movement, dirt, desperation, wealth, pleasure, indifference, compassion, exhaustion, and hope. Faces of all races, white, black, brown, yellow, even red. And the beauty, soul, and heart of many lands: Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Ecuador, Ireland, Italy, China, Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, and so many others. Slums, skyscrapers, museums, the theater; drug dealers, prostitutes, homeless people, millionaires; hard-working, struggling families, single mothers, schools filled with children: quiet, shy, wild, crazy, studious, disruptive kids, so much youthful energy and hidden genius here; great hearts and great souls, so underestimated, looking for a place to shine. (God has made the sky for stars to shine. Why canít we make the earth be a place for people to shine?)
As you see: a tough, hard, imperfect city, but one saved by the beauty of the great dreams growing amidst its terrible faults, and by the masses of precious lives surviving and battling in its streets, surging through them like the most beautiful river in the world.
New York is not a city that can easily be classified. It does not deserve to be turned into something simple and easy to define, into a symbol of only one aspect of itself, any more than a rainbow deserves to be called only "red." When a city, a country, a race, or even a single human being is simplified by a mind in order to "understand" it, a great injustice has been committed. Truth has been destroyed in order to spare oneself the ordeal of piercing the complexity. The hateful terrorist who sees only evil, and the blind patriot who sees only good, are both destroyers of the rainbow, killers of the truth, who steal pieces of reality to make a false reality in which it is easy to act. They both turn the world into what they need, and, in so doing, leave behind what the world really is. They also leave behind the higher people who they could be, rushing in to satisfy the shallow need, before they have a chance to discover the deeper need. Sometimes pain must be left in a field, like seeds, in order for a cure to grow. Running too quickly from the pain is like digging up the seeds a day after they have been planted. Anger kills the fertility of the pain. Revenge replaces healing, and action produces reaction. The wheel of disaster spins endlessly.
I want to tell those who were happy on the day of the attack, that on the day the Twin Towers fell, many innocent lives were lost. There are sure to have been some cruel and thoughtless people who were killed that day (for how should someone become a saint just by dying?), but I am sure that many more of those who lost their lives on that day were, in essence, good people: good-hearted, caring, decent people, living in this culture, surviving in this culture, the same as you live and survive in yours. They had families, friends, wives, husbands, children, dreams, things to do, lives to live. And among these were sure to have been some really special souls, so much more beautiful than you can ever know, one step away from being angels.
Did you know that besides the white Christian Americans and Jews who you call "monsters", so that the torch of your rage will not have time to burn out on a long night of soul-searching, there were many others who fell on the day those towers fell, as well? African-Americans. Muslim Pakistanis. Dominicans. A cleaning lady from Colombia, and a delivery man from Mexico, both of whom sent a part of their hard-earned money home each month, back to family and relatives living in their own impoverished lands. You killed them all - and none of them deserved to die. You called every fish in the sea a shark, and dropped your bomb upon the sea.
And what of those "evil" white Americans, the ones who were the target, not the "collateral damage"? Out on a walk, I happened to bump into the sister of one of the firemen who had fallen, bravely attempting to lead survivors out of the burning towers. She had built a little shrine by a bridge, and come there with flowers and a candle. It was three days after the attack, and she told me, tears in her eyes, that she was praying for her brotherís return. At once, the image of the collapsing towers came to my mind: the gigantic cave-ins, the plumes of smoke, and dust, rising high up into the sky, something like the take-off of a mighty spacecraft, in reverse, the mountain of rubble that was left, afterwards, over one hundred stories from each building crushed in upon itself. My mind told me at once that the girlís brother was dead (who could survive that disaster?) But her heart was still hoping - and that hope was devastating to me. It showed me the power of her love; and that showed me her beauty (for being able to love so much), and her brotherís beauty (for being able to be loved so much); and I felt the awful pain that was waiting to burst through into her life when the wall of denial could no longer be maintained, and all the memories of the good times with her brother suddenly came crashing through to her with the knowledge that there would be no new memories to be had, that what she had now was it, the end. All she would have to work with for the rest of time. My mind and her heart, standing together for a moment at a place from which you could once have seen the Twin Towers (now there was only a heartless gap in the sky). I felt I could not comfort her too much, or hug her, for that would be a subtle way of shattering her hope, a way of telling her that her brother was dead. And I could not bear to be the one to break the news to her. Standing with her, there on the bridge, on that sad, heart-rending morning, was one of the loneliest moments of my life.
Can any of you doubt it? This girlís brother did not deserve to die on that day. Nor did all the other brothers, fathers, husbands, sons, sisters, mothers, wives, or daughters who perished in the blindness of an attack that did not see its victims. A terrible moral mistake was made, and he who runs from this truth only kills his soul.
Of course, you who struck on that day, and you who cheered as you saw Americans die, you have your wounds. I know it. I have heard of Shabra. I have heard of Shatila. I know about all the fighting in Beirut in 1982, all the huge wars with giant battles, and the little wars of raids, ambushes and retaliation (though no war is little to those who are in the middle of it). I know about the bombings, the strafings, the cluster bombs in the streets, the tanks, the bulldozed buildings, the lost territory, the refugee camps. I hear your voices. I tell you that I love Muslim people, I love Palestinian and Arab people, I love Pakistanis and Afghans. But that does not mean that I must hate Israel or India, or America. Every one of us has done wrong, and every one of us has been wronged. Every one of our nations contains beautiful people and cruel people, people who see, and people who do not see. Violence only closes the eyes of people, when what we all need to do is to open the eyes of people. Somewhere, there is peace, but we wonít find it by driving away the people who want to be our friends, by drowning out the voices of the people who understand our pain with the sound of our bombs, by making brotherhood seem like treachery, and peace seem like cowardice. We canít ask those who want to help us to swim to us through a river filled with the blood of their own countrymen.
Let me speak of this on two levels: the moral and the practical.
On the moral level, I do not believe it is right to kill an innocent person, in order to pay for the life of another innocent person. Your child was killed by a bomb that should never have been dropped where it was, on homes that were unjustly turned into a battlefield. So you send someone to get payback. You kill someone you donít know, a child from the bomberís country. It is fair you say, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. "I cried. Now you cry." I understand what you are saying and what you have done, but it is wrong. "Two wrongs do not make a right." The injustice that was done to you, you have duplicated, and in so doing, you have lost the moral power that you gained when you were wronged, which is a powerful energy once one knows how to use it. It is powerful on the earth, and powerful to God, who listens to our prayers. Now, when next you cry out against injustice, others will not call this the indignation of a righteous heart, afflicted, but the tactical ploy of a criminal. Once you are driven by your pain and rage to join the game of killers, you lose morality as a weapon, and are reduced to fighting with the weapons of others. How many planes, how many tanks, how many helicopters do you have?
Consider again. What would you do if you lived in a village, and a man from the town came and shot your friend, then fled back into the town? Would you think it right to arm yourself, go to the town, and start shooting everybody in sight? Would that be justice? Let me tell you something. There is no country that thinks in only one way. In every country there are people who agree with their governmentís policies and disagree with their governmentís policies, and of those who agree with their governmentís policies, many of these are manipulated by lies and ignorance, and if they knew the truth, might change their minds, and work to alter the direction of their government. But when you come with your gun blazing into the middle of their street, and leave the bodies of their innocent friends strewn all over the ground, you are only making it easier for them to believe the lies others tell them about you, which keep them from understanding you. You are only feeding the myth that you belong to a violent, heartless people, and thereby losing your greatest weapon of all in the struggle, which is the fact that you are a human being. If they really knew that and felt that, in their hearts, they could not do what they are doing to you. I am sure the heartless ones among them are grateful every time you give them a new body - new raw material for their myth.
To me, one of the best ways to understand the humanity of your "enemy" is to imagine going back in time, to the day your enemy was just born. Imagine then, when this enemy was an infant, if you or one of your people had lifted it out of its cradle, and brought it back to your own country, to raise as one of yours. Imagine if this adopted "enemy" was taught your language, your religion, your culture. Maybe then, that enemy would now be your best friend. And each one of you would be willing to give his life for the other, just like brothers, instead of wanting so ferociously to take the life of the other. Think of this, for a moment, and let it show you that your enemyís soul is not evil; that "friend and foe" are concepts that are learned; and that the raw material of brotherhood is there, in every one of us. If you could raise a child, sprung from the loins of the enemy, to be one of your own, one who would cover you, in the midst of battle, with his own body, and give his blood for his love of you, so you could teach the man, who still contains that child, to understand you and respect you, to change his gaze, and recognize you. Of course, the learning would be much slower, much harder, for adults can never learn as easily as children. But if the teacher knew how to teach, he could surely break through the conceptual barbed wire which every culture erects around itself, to find the trace of his precious lost brother, deep inside the enemy. And I wonder: if a brother can run into the middle of an open street, facing bullets, to pull his wounded brother back to safety, why can he not come to save his brother, when his brother is trapped in the uniform of the enemy, and wounded by lies instead of bullets? Why can he not come to save his brother with his heart instead of a gun, and try to pull his brother out of the street of ignorance?
On the practical level, I would say to those who planned the September 11 attack, and those who applauded it, interpreting it as a blow on their behalf, your concept of struggle is deeply flawed. You are basing your strategy not only upon a flawed sense of morality, but also upon a deadly misperception of the "terrain" you are fighting on. The planners of this operation may have known every mountain nook and cranny of Afghanistan, like the palm of their hand, but their knowledge of the American people, the American political system, and the tense relationship between the primal human psyche and modern Western culture, is minimal. And I say to them: you saw the US in Vietnam. (and you saw the Soviets in Afghanistan.) Then you saw the US in Somalia. And you think: "Easy. These Americans - these superpower people - are not men, just frightened little boys hiding inside their big machines. Kill one or two of them, and the rest will run away, theyíll give you whatever you want."
As we say here, in the streets, "Hello?"
Vietnam did not strike inside US soil. Neither did Somalia. You canít leave your own country, so when someone starts attacking you in your home, you wonít hear anybody saying, "Letís get out of here." During the Vietnam War, many people said, "What the hell are we doing over there, what are we fighting for, and dying for?" When buildings are blown up in your own city, buildings you used to walk through and know inside-out like friends, and you can see all the rubble lying around in the streets you live on and see all the people crying for their lost loved ones, not on TV, anymore, but in person, right in front of you, "What are we fighting and dying for?" ceases to be a relevant question. In your guts, you feel like you are fighting for survival. The war is no longer distant, and no longer seems unnecessary.
And the more success the terrorists have, the stronger this will to survive will become, and the less like Vietnam the war will be. A successfully exploded "dirty bomb", or a fission bomb, or a major biowarfare attack, far from terrorizing the US into submission and breaking its will, will only magnify this will to survive. And Hiroshima/NY - the crown jewel of the terroristsí desires - would only be a deathblow for them, and every cause even remotely linked to them. What kind of strategy is it when the greatest possible success one could hope to achieve by means of it, would be the utter destruction of oneís own cause?
I think the greatest miscalculation of the terrorist mentality is to believe that the USA is a fixed and unmovable target, in the political sense. The terrorists, quite simply, do not understand how a society can evolve, in the face of new threats and challenges. How a culture can profoundly transform itself, about-face, U-turn, develop sharper claws and sharper teeth, whatever is needed to make it through the night. (I spend a lot of time talking about this in my book, The Message of Rainsnow, which was written before 9/11, and yet, in many ways, foresaw it.) The terrorists do not understand that the human psyche is stronger than the cultural forms which act as its house, and that when those cultural forms fail to meet its need, the psyche does not remain trapped in the burning house, but leaves it, and makes a new house for itself, a dark and terrible house if that is what is needed to survive on a dark and terrible night. In this way, the cultural forms which the terrorists dream of exploiting forever, as permanent weaknesses of the American system, may actually shift in ways they had never imagined, and could never prepare for. What they expect to find here, always, rooted in one place and waiting for their attack, is actually mobile - history has proved this over and over again - and they may arrive one day to find that their sitting duck has become an unreachable and unstoppable bird of prey.
As I believe I have showed convincingly in The Message of Rainsnow, if too much pressure is applied to the American system by terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, or other enemies, it is very likely that our democratic, open-access society will be transformed, even to the extreme extent that the US could one day become a kind of high-tech police state, limiting terrorist opportunities within the US, while freeing itself to launch morally unrestrained military reprisals and attacks against terrorist bases, supporters, and regions throughout the world. (Think of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane with our technology.)
Anyone who says this is impossible is out of touch with the dynamics of the human psyche, and in particular, the collective psyche which underlies modern Western civilization, which is quite capable of erupting violently like a volcano, from the pressure of its own frustrations, denials, sorrows, fears, and anger. (See, again, The Message of Rainsnow, and Chapter 25 of The Journey of Rainsnow.) While the terrorists most definitely expect America to react in a cowardly way to setbacks, they are sure to be astonished by the pent-up fury in our collective psyche, which is far more wounded than they think - we are not just a bunch of happy, decadent cowards basking in our "riches", who would rather surrender than miss our favorite TV program. We are deeply hurt beings, in our own way, scarred by the stresses and emotional lacks of our civilization, which we did not invent, but were born into. Forget about the "luxuries", the "streets paved with gold" myth, which has nothing to do with the way peopleís lives are spent, and the feelings in their hearts. There is a profound longing, here, to get out of the rat race, to escape from the daily grind, to be free, to recover a deeper sense of lifeís meaning and purpose, to reconnect with something intense, and emotionally uplifting. Once the pressure from abroad increases, this internal energy - this anger at not being fully alive, and this desire to feel more meaningful and more worthwhile - is likely to reach a critical boiling point, at which time the resulting mixture of fear and need could become the psychological engine of an American jihad, a "life-redeeming" crusade against "evil", beginning with the mutation (destruction) of all those national institutions and laws which prevented us from unleashing our full force, followed by the merciless destruction of our enemies by "state terrorism", using all means at our disposal: nuclear, biological, and chemical, enhanced and followed up by the surveillance and police capabilities of a technological behemoth. When you have a damaged sense of worth, which gives you no further psychological room to retreat - when you feel your enemy is filled with hate and cannot be reasoned with - and when you have the most powerful weapons in the world - backing down is not a likely reaction.
I ask the terrorists to consider the following story, something from my childhood. There was once a big dog - a ferocious German Shepherd - who barked and snarled and bared his fangs when the children of the neighborhood passed by his home. At first, the children were all scared, but then, seeing him fastened to a leash, which was tied to a stake in his yard, they began to laugh at him and taunt him. Some even began to throw things at him. Until, one day, the big dog, enraged by the childrenís naÔve assumption of invulnerability, suddenly broke free of the fragile stake that restrained him. It was not a pretty picture. And I say to all who are in danger of falling into the same trap: do not make the mistake that those children made.
And I tell you, think again: You hijack a plane and crash it into a building. For you, that is a missile. Here, we have thousands of bombs and missiles, and can write your name on every one of them. You may be able to contaminate a part of one of our cities with a dirty bomb. We could make your entire country uninhabitable for generations, a place where only snakes and insects could dwell. You might one day be able to get enough enriched uranium or plutonium to knock out a major US city. We could blow your nation, and a hundred nations, off the map forever. Donít you see? If you accomplish your purpose, you will only cause us to "untie" our hands, and you will see, then, how foolish your battle is.
Let me say, at this moment, that I do not say this as a form of boasting. I did not invent these giant arsenals of weapons, this almost otherworldly technology, and they, therefore, say nothing about me. This warning is not my way of saying, "I am bigger than you, and I can knock your teeth out." I am a soul, just like you, and I know that God will measure me not by the might of the country in which I happen to live, but by the strengths and weaknesses of my own soul. Rich and poor, weak and strong, Godís balance weighs us all in the same way: naked.
No, I give this warning to you, not as a bully, but as a lover of people, so that you will know the creature you are planning to kill - the "water serpent" which you see floating in the lake - is much larger than you imagine. You see only ten feet of him, and think he is only snake: you do not see, below the surface, the other sixty feet of him - the submerged might of a creature you have yet to comprehend!
Perhaps you think that people like me, with a conscience, can stop America from transforming in this terrible way, from melting down to become a totally uninhibited killer. But I warn you: if you are too successful, people like me will only be swept away. We will be trapped by the current of panic and rage, and like a swimmer caught above Niagara Falls, we will be carried over the edge by the overpowering waters. Even in the wake of 9/11, which did not involve a nuclear attack, I could feel the tremendous force of patriotism, here, in my country: patriotism that was not always healthy. Within a matter of days, American flags were out and flying everywhere, and highway overpasses were draped with banners, saying anything from "God Bless America" to "Nuke the Fools and Take their Fuel." There was the normal spirit of self-defense; the normal feelings of solidarity for our dead, and for our grieving widows and orphans; the normal sense of outrage against what seemed to be a cruel and unjustifiable act; the normal sense of fear. There was also a visceral desire for revenge - said one sign in a car, "Make war without mercy upon those who have harmed us" - while I heard some people exclaim, "What are they complaining about?", when pictures of Afghan villagers weeping for their women and children, accidentally killed by US bombs, appeared on TV. "They cheered when our people died, so what do they expect? That we should cry for them?" There were also dark outbreaks of prejudice on our streets. On the day of the attack, a Sikh in lower Manhattan was targeted by an angry mob, due to the fact that he was wearing a turban. He had to flee for his life. Some time later, after exiting Manhattan for Brooklyn, he was assaulted again, by another crowd, and once more had to flee, taking off his turban as he ran, to try to hide his identity. Other, equally violent, or even more violent, persecutions played out across the land. Throughout the country, traditional Muslim families were soon torn between their desire to dress according to their beliefs and customs, and their fear of being targeted by angry American crowds if they did not downplay their origins, and attempt to "blend in." Many Middle-Easterners, at this time, put American flags up by their doors - like crosses to ward off the vampires? (Of course, for many, it was also an expression of solidarity with the innocent victims of the attacks.) Stares, insults, jeers, suspicions, and harassment were frequent. (Thankfully, during this period, there were also many cases in which threatened and uncomfortable Muslims were reassured or supported by non-Muslim Americans; while the vast majority of Americans did not choose to lash out at the innocent Muslims who lived amongst them, though levels of suspicion and mutual discomfort did rise.)
In my own case, I consider myself to be a patriot of God and justice, and not of any single country. I believe nations exist to serve God, not to transcend Him or forget Him. I do not believe in "my country, right or wrong", but in making my country right, when it is wrong, and in trying to make my country serve God and Humanity, with wisdom and compassion. If my country is wounded, I will stand by my country. But if my country acts as a thug, I will accuse my country. If my country is right, I will follow it wherever it goes. But if my country is wrong, I will try to lead it on another path, and I will not follow it into darkness.
You see, I am not an ordinary patriot. But when I saw my towers fall - part of the precious skyline of the city where my heart is trapped, like a ghost, haunting the place that meant the most to him while he lived - I could not fail but notice the power of the need to bond. At that moment, I wanted, so desperately, to be united with everyone else in the cloud of dust, I wanted, so desperately, to belong to this great family of New York City and America, which suddenly woke up, discovering itself as a result of the tragedy. Honestly speaking, the feeling, at that moment, was like the feeling at a beautiful family reunion - tear-filled and moving beyond words, when years of painful separation are finally brought to an end - and I didnít want to miss it for anything, not for justice, not for prudence, not for clarity, not for truth. The emotional intensity was something that eclipsed every other possibility of life.
I never have been much into anthems and flags, but when, on TV, I heard the Queenís band play "The Star Spangled Banner" at Buckingham Palace in solidarity with our losses here, in the US, tears came to my eyes. Something primal and overwhelming swept through my entire body. And I also found myself deeply moved by the singing of "God Bless America", especially as performed by a gifted New York City police officer. This is something that would have been incomprehensible to me only a year before. And yet, in the wake of 9/11, the words to the song became ingrained in my memory:
"God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her,
And guide her,
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains,
To the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam.
God Bless America,
My home, sweet home.
God Bless America,
My home, sweet home."
Something I wanted America to be moved me in the deepest core of my soul, and at that moment, it was not easy to remember that America was not yet that, nor close to being that.
Worst of all, perhaps, I just stood by, dazed, on the periphery of events, while powerful forces fought crucial battles on what seemed to be the edges (but were really at the center) of my life. Our national leadership, spearheaded by the efforts of Attorney General John Ashcroft, sought to push vigorous new legislation which would increase the governmentís ability to combat terrorism: legislation which many critics, including the ACLU and some members of Congress, feared was too sweeping and too vague, putting ordinary citizens and fundamental civil liberties at risk, setting the government on the road to becoming an all-powerful spy and policeman over all of us, a government with unlimited powers in the manner of Orwellís Big Brother. At the time, I felt drained of energy to resist. Fighting against my own government at this moment, when the World Trade Center lay in ruins on the streets of my city, was something I had no heart for. Stories of long detentions of Muslim "suspects" in American jails, many of whom were held without evidence, also could not bring me out of my semi-nationalistic daze. Nor did I react when a correspondent of ABC News reported on al-Qaida terror suspects being interrogated by authorities in a foreign country. Said the correspondent: "The US is in no hurry to get its hands on these suspects, since authorities in _____ are known to be very Ďpersuasiveí." A wry smile accompanied this comment, which really might have been stated in the following way: "We are letting other countries torture al-Qaida suspects for us." For years, I had opposed torture through human rights groups such as Amnesty International, but now, I was listening to a veritable confession - almost a boast - of prisoners being tortured, by or for my country, without so much as raising a finger against it.
I think it is important for those who think America could never become an all-out monster, to consider the things I have just said. If I - an outcast, critic, rebel, and dissident in my own country - could be so moved, after 9/11, by primal patriotic feelings - so stripped of the energy to oppose my government, once deep wounds were opened in my land - so captured by the survival instinct as to assume a passive attitude towards human rights violations and even massive threats against my own civil liberties - what of the many millions of American citizens, already deeply imbedded in the mainstream of our culture? What of the people who were already waving flags, ignoring (or simply unaware of) the views of other nations, and approving of everything America did before 9/11?
Of course, this time - after the 9/11 attacks - our system remained intact. It made necessary adaptations, committing some abuses in the process, but it did not melt down. What if the level of the threat was vastly increased, however? Once again, I am not going to rewrite The Message of Rainsnow here, where my theories regarding terrorism and politics are explained in greater detail. But I will say, here, that there is ample historical precedent and psychological cause to believe that a major increase in terrorist effectiveness against our country (for example, successful nuclear strikes) would provoke massive changes in our institutions, resulting in a militarized and increasingly ruthless nation, capable of using methods not now available to it, in order to accomplish its ends. And I do not think people like me would be able to stop this from happening. At such a time, the objections of our conscience would not be enough to hold back the floodwaters of fear and fury.
Let it be clearly recognized:
For the majority of any nation, at this stage of human development, survival comes before morality. As the threat to survival increases, so the allegiance to morality declines.
Survival comes before democracy, or any cultural form. When any cultural form, including democracy, fails to secure this most basic of human needs, it will be replaced. The survival instinct will generate its own institutions and its own laws. (It is important to realize, while on this subject, that a system may often be left intact in appearance, but changed in substance. Familiar forms may be left to comfort people, even as the forms become mere facades for something that is completely different.)
Patriotism can be both a beautiful and terrifying force. When external threats increase, the amount of fear in the mix also increases. Out of that fear may sometimes come prejudice, racism, anger, cruelty, and narrow-mindedness, the dark side of patriotism. Patriotism - a motivational tool in the survival of nations - may also become an exaggerated force of blindness, hate, and arrogance, swallowing up clarity and morality, and destroying everything of value the human heart has to offer.
And so I say, one last time, to those who cheered, as we cried, on 9/11:
Do you have a goal?
Do you believe in anything?
Are you soldiers, or just fools?
The path you are on cannot succeed. You will either not wound us enough, or wound us too much. If you draw too much blood from us, you will drown in our blood.
A soldier knows the terrain he is fighting on. You do not know us. You do not know who we are now, and you do not know what we could be driven to become.
A soldier fights to win. But you are on the path of losing. Are you fighting for any real cause, for any living person, or are you just fighting for yourselves, fighting because you need to feel important? If you are placing your personal psychological needs above the needs of your cause, or your people, you are betraying them. That is not the way of a true warrior.
You who resent us - if you feel you have been wronged by America - if you have a deep grievance - donít try to tell America with a bullet. Learn to communicate, not kill. Come as a human being, not as a terrorist. Fight with your humanity, not with your inhumanity. For you, the way to win is through communication and solidarity. Violence destroys communication, and withers solidarity. Come to us the same way you go to Mecca, clean, honest, righteous, filled with Godís magnificence, find your natural friends here, and work with them to help everyone understand. And as you ask things of us, also discipline yourselves and your people, for who can make peace with a creature of many heads, when one head wants peace and another one wants war? When one head sends diplomats, and another head sends suicide bombers? And as you ask to be respected, come with respect, for each one of us must be free to live in his own way, as long as he is just to others. Donít come to tell us yours is the only path, the same as we must never tell you what to believe.
Yes, I know, time is precious. Some of you fear how many lives will be lost in the time. But I tell you, just as peace takes time, so war takes time. War hides its lack of results by filling the lost time with action, with terrible dramas that take peopleís eyes off of the clock that marks futility. Fighting for peace seems less active, but it is more constructive, and in the end it gains time. As a great poet once said, though your heart burns with the desire to right what is wrong, you cannot escape the need for patience. Therefore, embrace patience - not the uncaring patience of he who profits from changing nothing, but the ardent patience of he who is committed to transforming the world.
And I say, I have been trying to change my country in a positive way for years, and to listen to the voices of all the world. I am trying to right the wrongs of my country from within, but what you have done has greatly damaged my work. You have made it harder for me to speak, and harder for my countrymen to listen.
I invite you, whoever you are, wherever you are, you who are traveling on the path of my enemy, to lay down your weapons, and to speak to me, heart to heart. To begin the struggle to know, respect, and learn from each other, so that we may find ways of agreeing on what is right and just, and on how to arrive at what is right and just.
Some, I know, have only bullets, the way an empty heart speaks. But many more have hearts with life, and will know how to meet someone who values the truth.
A Spiritual Look at 9/11, Part II
Weapons of Depth Contents