Wishing and Hoping and...
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2001 Adirondack WYSIWYG -- all rights reserved
For me, as with many people, the attack on the World Trade Center personalized the act of terrorism. In the not-that-distant past, I used to have business there about once a month and had many friends who worked there. The fact that they moved their offices to a less expensive property does not make the memories any less vivid to me. I also have a cousin, a NYC fireman who, I am told, would have been one of the first responders (most of whom were killed as the towers collapsed) had he not been on a temporary assignment to a different firehouse.
Since the attack on the World Trade Center, I have found myself counseling people fearful of using an airplane. I have found my children talking about changing their life plans due to fear. I have heard people I normally consider sane and levelheaded speak of containment camps like those in which the United States placed people of Japanese descent during World War II. My children have sat at our dinner table talking about how United States citizens, the children of people in this country for several generations but of Middle Eastern origin, have been spit upon.
As a member of the human race, as a New Yorker (the state, not the city) and as one who has a bit more reason than most to say, "there, but for the grace of God, would be me," I would love to say about the people who killed all those people at the World Trade Center, "the vile bastards and all their descendants deserve to die." The temptation is strong. Do you feel it too?
I can taste the words, feel the anger the words unleash and focus. I can also feel the righteous need to punish those who have tried, in this personal way, to hurt me and mine. In those moments when my anger gets the best of me, I could easily slide into thoughts of how to hurt them. However, just hurting them is not enough, is it? Sure, the Bible talks about "an eye for an eye", but let's face it, one eye is just not enough. The desire is not merely to punish them; it is to punish them so that it hurts them more than it hurt us.
But! Again, but, I have to keep asking myself what good that would do. The people who destroyed the World Trade Center and killed so many people acted on behalf of their God. They willingly went to their deaths in order to strike at and hurt a people, a country, that they felt their God wanted destroyed. As far as they were concerned they acted in the most honorable, ethical and moral fashion possible. They died for their God. I sincerely hope the terrorists have that heavenly reward they are expecting because, if not we have once again demonstrated that human beings are not the smartest critters around, but the stupidest. Personally, I suspect that they are in for a teeny-tiny surprise.
Not withstanding war, starvation, illness or acts of nature, I suspect that more people have died for their religious beliefs than any for other reason. On November 13, 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter in which he noted that "...in this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." Actually, there are several other certainties that the worthy Mr. Franklin omitted from his list. One of them is that somewhere, someone will do something horrible -- read: stupid -- in the name of God.
Now you may ask how this has anything to do with an electronic magazine dedicated to transformative fiction. The obvious answer is that events such as the World Trade Center change our lives.
Some of the changes are obvious: grieving, finding ways to move on with life, learning to be more cautious in public places, waiting longer for mass transportation, feeling a bit harder and less forgiving towards those that are different or who we don't understand to name a few. Some of the changes we have yet to see.
Some of the changes are more long term. Will citizens of the United States of America become more conservative as a group? Will minorities like Arabs, blacks, Jews, homosexuals, transgendered people, etc. become less welcome, maybe feared, maybe reviled? Will governments posture and spew rhetoric until the human race has boxed itself into a corner from which it cannot escape? It only took the assassination of one person to start World War I. What might the assassination of nearly 7,000 cause?
Not that any of the other tragedies that abound on this pebble we call Earth are any the less important or worthy, but the world has been transformed already and will be transformed further as a result of the attack on the World Trade Center. May those changes be for the better. Our values include respect for human life and the betterment of our world; may these values shine through when the dust has settled, the rubble has been cleared, the dead and missing buried, and those that would seek to actively harm others convinced, somehow, of the error of their ways. Sadly, this may mean that more people will die. Even sadder, someone -- maybe God -- will have to decide what deaths, if any, were warranted. I personally hope that there will be no more deaths, but I recognize the impossibility of that sentiment. Thus, I suggest that if there must be more to die, may it please be limited to those that use others as pawns in their games, by invoking words like "God, honor and duty."
Jeffrey M. Mahr
September 30, 2001
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