The terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001 will
test our collective and individual resolve to respond constructively to
eradicate the root causes in our geo-political and geo-economic social
systems which guarantee that such heinous acts will inevitably emerge.
The temptation may well be to respond by plunging us into a global war while
imposing global and domestic political and social solutions that
cause more long-term social, economic, and broad-scale personal misery than
any terrorist could otherwise ever hope to accomplish. That is always the
terrorist's goal. We run the risk, through our own unenlightened
response -- through our prejudices, fears, ignorance and pain -- of ensuring
that they succeed.
I fear there are reactive forces in our individual and collective psyches
that will propel us down a path of death and destruction from which we may
be unable to extricate ourselves, and that more sinister forces of greed and
ideology behind our government faces will catapult the incident into a
totalitarian curtailment of our way of life. It is by all reasonable and
constructive means appropriate and necessary to vigorously go after the
specific perpetrators and their accomplices and bring them to justice. But
to further destroy countless other innocent men, women, and children though
war to punish the actions of a select few would be a further moral outrage
and an abhorrent crime against humanity. This deplorable event is a tragedy
beyond comprehension. To take a path that leads to an even greater tragedy
around the world is precisely what these mad perpetrators hope for. I pray
that it becomes obvious that engaging in a regional and potentially global
war means the perpetrators succeed in their mission of throwing our world
into a state of destructive chaos.
The fervor to seek resolution, solace, justice and restitution through
is madness, particularly with individuals who seek their holy reward in
heaven through acts of death and destruction. The apprehension and
application of justice of and to the specific perpetrators and their
accomplices is a necessary moral activity. The wholesale plunging of the
world into war, and the simultaneous destruction of our civil liberties that
will, without a doubt, lead to an incomprehensible human misery, would be a
tragic moral outrage. I hope and pray that we will find within ourselves the
sanity to constructively pursue the former and forgo this destructive latter
More to the point, I pray that somehow this tragic event will galvanize
collective will to more thoroughly comprehend and redress the horrid social
forces that keep so many of the world's people in impoverishment, the
sinister underbelly of our geopolitical environment that breeds terrorism
in all of its ugly forms. I don't mean to be simplistic. Our world is a
complicated place. But if there is anything I would beg of my
fellow human beings at this moment it is to beg that we endeavor to redress
the root causes of terrorism rather than to fall into the abyss of further
and destruction born of our collective ignorance, fear, and immediate pain.
Racing to war may help to purge the painful emotions of the moment. To
believe it is a long-term solution is madness that will lead to suffering
beyond comprehension for untold millions, a crime of unspeakable horror
in which I, for one, cannot in good conscience willingly participate
or lend support.
War is easy to start, hard to finish, and unleashes unspeakable horror.
measured, just, and, above all constructive response in these circumstances
is an infinitely more difficult undertaking requiring the emergence of the
best within us. I am not normally the praying sort. But I find myself in
these sad days praying that we will have the moral fortitude to forgo the
understandable urge to blindly strike out and kill, and that we will refocus
our immense creative energies to bring forth a more just and free world.
September 14, 2001
Succeeding Beyond The Terrorists' Wildest Dreams,
We Run the Risk of Self Destruction.
By Byron Callas
This is a very sad time. While no one that I am close to was
injured or killed, I have friends in New York who had loved ones perish and
expect I will hear of more. It is very sad. I have a friend who, standing in
amazement, happened to see the first plane just before it hit. He and his
wife live somewhat close to the destruction. Their lives are terribly
disrupted. Other friends who live toward mid-or-uptown are safe, though
they are breathing impure air and suffer a range of inconveniences.
There are no words to describe the shock and horror of friends who are
living in the midst of this in New York. Talking with many of them has been
a heart-wrenching experience. Nevertheless, the way New Yorkers have
pulled together in a tragic time is inspirational.
The incident is horrible and deplorable beyond comprehension.
For several days I was in a state of shock. Like most of my friends, I was
glued to the TV watching horrified and dismayed as events unfolded. With the
passing days I have become even more horrified at how Washington seems to be
responding, propelling us towards a draconian curtailment of our civil
liberties and our way of life. I fear the reactionary and militant factions
in our government are intent on plunging us into regional and potentially
global wars that will kill and cause untold misery for millions of innocent
men, women and children, meanwhile taking the young lives of countless
patriotic servicemen in our and other government's armies -- servicemen who
sincerely believe they are defending the soul of their nations -- patriotic
men and women who too often are only cannon fodder for brutal interests
which have shaped a global social order that ensured that eventually a
heinous crime such as happened on September 11 would eventually materialize.
There is much to applaud from so many Americans who are encouraging
thoughtfulness, reason, deliberation, and the rule of law, education,
compassion and restraint to redress the current crisis. Sadly, however, the
more reactionary elements seem to currently have the loudest voice. Most
disturbingly, that voice seems to howl loudest from our leaders in
Washington, unlike the more admirable qualities of reason and restraint
consistently demonstrated by a broad range of local officials who have
provided much useful assistance and effective leadership to their
Most distressing, are the isolated incidents of vigilante retribution
against innocent Arabs and Muslim Americans -- acts of ignorance,
intolerance, and wanton racism which I find so deplorable I can
barely speak about it. It is heartening that officials at all
levels of government have repeatedly and openly spoken out against such
deplorable behavior. One hopes that these incidents will quickly subside.
But if the Washington war rhetoric propels us toward war, I fear such
barbarous acts against innocent people will only get worse. It is horrible
what people do when stirred to war.
With some self-education in the historical realities I have a potent
recognition that the events of September 11 are born of a long chain of
events and are not simply the spontaneous actions of a few madmen lacking a
context for their deplorable actions. It is a chain of events about which we
remain dangerously ignorant. As a people we lack a sufficient
understanding that Ben Laden and his ilk, and the Taliban itself, are, in
part, hideous creatures of our own making. It behooves us to become more
enlightened about the complicated historical chain of events that have led
to the current crisis.
We Americans are wonderful people and an extraordinary lot who have
immeasurable contributions in a complex world. Nevertheless, our general
ignorance about modern global history and America's role in it sometimes
breeds a people who can be dangerously callous and self-righteous about our
perceived innocence, goodness, and superiority.
Those more informed, and there are so many, often find themselves powerless
to be agents of enlightenment and change, their views and good works chewed
up in the powerful forces of the prevailing global social context. It is
paramount that we not underestimate the power of this prevailing context
that seems to be suddenly hurling our world toward imminent catastrophe.
To wit, I remain in shock at how this single and specific act of a
small number of individuals has triggered such a profoundly dangerous
response. The damage is so much greater than the loss of those magnificent
office buildings and, more tragically, the loss of perhaps 6000 lives in New
York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Scores of businesses are put out of
business with the loss of thousands of jobs. The US airline industry risks
sustained financial losses or bankruptcy. Thousands of people in that
industry have already lost their jobs, with thousands more job cuts probably
to be announced.
The air freight industry, and other industries that rely on air
transportation to move goods and provide services, has suffered terrible
losses. Additional billions have been lost in the travel and entertainment
industries. The insurers and reinsurers are losing untold billions.
Restaurants, shopping malls, and an endless range of other businesses have
lost billions as people have momentarily curtailed spending. Children around
the world watching the event incessantly on television with the rest of us
have had a shock to their systems that will stay with them for the rest of
their lives. Stockholders holding a range of securities will sustain
Billions of dollars in federal funds earmarked for important
social programs are being redirected toward impending war
efforts. The productive hours of hundreds of millions of people around the
world have been lost at a cost of untold billions while worker attention is
focused on the tragedy and its aftermath. Movements are
underway at state and federal levels to possibly implement a broad range of
social policies that may severely impact our civil liberties and
undoubtedly contribute to an increase in domestic human rights violations,
civil unrest and misery. The act has stopped dead in its tracks the daily
work of worldwide heads-of-state and their related government
assemblies while they throw themselves into dealing with the threat of wars
that may be wrought by the powerful forces of the United States seeking
retribution to soothe its wounds.
By our own actions and reactions we are creating an exponentially far
greater state of disruption and misery than the specific and small number of
terrorists who committed these acts could have ever hoped to accomplish. The
success of their mission is both awesome and horrifying to contemplate. A
global war unleashing unimaginable misery would be their crowning success
and reward. It is an unspeakable crime of collective madness that we seem
to be giving a small group of madmen exactly what they want, madmen who are
perfectly willing, indeed even eager, to die to realize the fulfillment of
A good friend in New York e-mailed that maybe it sounds
Pollyanna but she prayed "this produces a shift in consciousness that will
lead us to a commitment to Peace around the world." She also said that she
felt ashamed for wanting retribution. Reflecting on her thoughts I felt
compelled to respond, "I don't think it is Pollyanna to hope for something good to
come of this. Personally I think that is the ONLY sane perspective to hold, the
only constructive perspective to promote. My number one fear is that our
reaction will take us down a path of death and destruction from which we are
unable to extricate ourselves, and that more sinister forces in our
government will use the incident for a curtailment of our way of life. To hope, pray,
promote and work for a 'shift in consciousness that will lead us to a commitment
to peace around the world' is perhaps the highest moral ground one
can take in the face of certain potential alternatives.
"Meanwhile, I do not think one should feel ashamed for wanting reprisals.
It would not be possible to be a caring person and not have those feelings.
In my opinion the DESIRE for reprisals is natural and should be strong.
The moral fortitude required I think is to be able to have those feelings,
thoroughly appropriate under the circumstances, and be able to rise above
them through constructive and healing words and actions. I thoroughly
believe that it is appropriate to vigorously go after the specific
perpetrators and bring them to justice.
"But to destroy other innocent men, women, and children though acts
to punish the actions of a select few individuals would be a moral
outrage and further crime against humanity. This deplorable event is a
tragedy beyond comprehension. To take a path that leads to an even greater
tragedy around the world is precisely what these mad perpetrators hope for.
I am overwhelmed that this is not obvious to people -- that engaging in a
regional and potentially global war means the perpetrators succeed in their
mission of throwing the whole world into a state of destructive chaos.
Pollyanna to hope for a shift in consciousness? Hell no! We had better
hope with every ounce of our being for that shift, because the alternative
is a potential domestic and global nightmare.
"I was heartened to see Yassar Arafat very publicly and demonstratively
giving blood to send to New York victims. He seems to be one of the few
world leaders where you could see in his eyes the overwhelming fear that
this tragedy has the horrible potential to be the beginning of the end. One
would hope that the message inherent in this remarkable gesture from a man
who legitimately many have reason to revile will not go unnoticed and
unheeded. I fear the worst but speak out and pray for the best. The former
motivates the latter. I believe together they are appropriate responses to
this tragic turn of events."
Perhaps we will be fortunate and approach this tragedy with some sanity
leading to a constructive resolution. In the meantime, we must live with the
sobering reality that a powerful giant has been wounded. People of good will
everywhere will be hard pressed to help this wounded giant come to its
senses before it strikes out indiscriminately to soothe its wounds.
I don't believe that at any time in history there has been a more important
necessity for the voices of peace and reason to sing their song at the top
of their lungs. Perhaps it sounds melodramatic, but I fear the fate of the
world rests in the balance.
Meanwhile, separate from all the intellectualizations and debate, so
people in our remarkable republic have suffered terribly from this heinous
crime. It is an emotional roller-coaster ride for just about everyone I
know. I'm going about my daily affairs as best as I can. It is difficult in
this atmosphere, but one must get on with life with the intent to heal even
as one seeks a meaningful justice. Indeed, I think getting on with life
accompanied by renewed calls and efforts to redress the root causes of
suffering are among the most important things we can contribute toward a
peaceful and constructive resolution.
September 16, 2001